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An Invisible Sign of My Own

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  3,765 Ratings  ·  465 Reviews
Aimee Bender’s stunning debut collection, The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, proved her to be one of the freshest voices in American fiction. Now, in her first novel, she builds on that early promise.

Mona Gray was ten when her father contracted a mysterious illness and she became a quitter, abandoning each of her talents just as pleasure became intense. The only thing she ca
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 17th 2001 by Anchor (first published July 18th 2000)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jan 01, 2009 Travis rated it liked it
On finishing the book I came to Goodreads to see what the concensus was... and I continue to be amazed at the power of subverted expectations.

There are dozens of reviews citing the unbelievability of the circumstances of the book, or the lack of realism in the dialog of second graders and the thin plotting of the book... one notable review even complains that this uncertified (and likely certifiable) teacher is handed a classroom.

Which has nothing to do with what the book wants to do.

Aimee Ben
Jan 14, 2008 jo rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who hurt
this book seems to me miraculous. i am blown away. the language is extraordinary -- simple and fluid and always surprising, all sharp angles and painful enchantments -- and what it says, the depth of pain the book carries on its slender breezy back, wow, it left me breathless. strange how much psychic pain such a little funny book can carry, how many deep terrors it can plumb: death, illness, the loss of those we need/love, the body and its redundancies, the unspeakable violence we do to ...more
Nov 22, 2008 Anne rated it it was amazing
oh, aimee bender. it's like you wrote this book and mailed it straight to the little postbox in my heart.
Jul 11, 2011 Anthony rated it really liked it
Just when I was getting a little weary of knocking down the unread pile of books from my shelf, Aimee Bender’s quirky novel about a socially awkward 20 year-old elementary school math teacher pleasantly surprised me with its unique perspective and wittiness. To simply summarize the plot wouldn’t give proper credit to the effect that the first-person narrative has upon the reader. The math teacher, Mona Grey, is a slightly neurotic and eccentric person who obsessively knocks on wood as her ...more
Nadine Larter
Sep 21, 2015 Nadine Larter rated it it was amazing
Feeling humbled by the (to me) unpretentious quirk that is Aimee Bender. How glorious when reading feels a little bit like falling in love - something that you instinctively understand but could not possibly explain. I must admit that for this novel a lot of the charm lay in the reviews of others. Indignant school teachers offended by an inaccurate portrayal of teaching and children. Fussy readers who cannot cope when a story is not "just so" - as if being "realistic" and "structured" is the ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Carrie rated it did not like it
The only reason I finished this book was because I thought it was well-written (OK, also because I didn't want to have to bring a dish to book club). I didn't connect with any of the characters and found them annoying. But more than that, this book really offended me as a teacher. The fact that this 19-year-old girl is allowed to just go teach seemed to carry the implication that anyone can do it. Forget about my degree, 60 hour work weeks, and hours upon hours of professional development every ...more
Jun 15, 2011 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'd imagine that it'd be difficult to have ambiguous feelings about this book: you'll either love it or hate it. That being said, I loved every bit of it to pieces and have proceeded to carry them in my pocket with me and then scatter them around everywhere I go.

An Invisible Sign of My Own covers innumerable heavy subjects in a way that's so delicate and light that you're somehow able to take it all in without being pinned under a leaden weight. The writing is beautiful, like a dark surreal fai
Amber Anderson
Oct 04, 2008 Amber Anderson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: rachel, salina
Shelves: novels, favorites
This is about a young woman (she's between 18 and 20, I think) who stumbles upon a teaching job.
She's eccentric, almost OCD, but in a whimsical and charming way that allows her to form interesting relationships with her second grade students...Not to mention the science teacher, whom she has mixed feelings about. He's cute and fun and she wants to bang him but she's afraid she'll lose him or hurt him or kill him so when she's horny she eats soap to supress her desire.
Weird, I know, but within A
Feb 07, 2011 earthy rated it it was ok
Bender's writing style is mesmerizing, which is just as well, since the actual plot and characters in this book are completely unbelieveable and difficult to sympathize with. Other reviewers have mentioned the ridiculous notion that a 19-year-old without any training could be hired (without a resume, without an interview) as an elementary school math teacher, and yes, that's certainly one of the many issues this book has with Realism vs. Artsy, Dream-like Quality. I'm prepared to suspend ...more
Sep 04, 2008 Rachel rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I think I'm going to have to abandon this one about 2/3 of the way through. Aimee Bender's writing kept me in it for as long as I was. There are some really good literary moments. Unfortunately, I have been getting increasingly annoyed with the novel itself. Many of the reviews I have read here reflect on the lack of believability. While I am willing to suspend some of that disbelief for good writing, much of it did not pay off and could have been handled better, particularly in the school ...more
Jenny Schmenny
Aug 18, 2007 Jenny Schmenny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
I loved this. Admittedly, I have a surreal and unhealthy relationship with numbers myself, so I could relate to the plot. There's a leaden quality to the whole story, inertia and weight that threaten to drag the reader down, but here's the thing: you have a choice! You can decide to pluck the beauty and sweetness from down among all those stones. Bender's got some seriously whimsical ways.
Apr 26, 2008 Jordan rated it it was ok
i love working with people who have ocd, but get bored while reading about them. also annoyed when all it takes is a cute boyfriend to make the ocd go away. (though that boyfriend waaaaaaas cute.)
Jan 28, 2012 Sonia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ho inaugurato il 2012 con un romanzo che merita davvero.
Buon segno per me, per le mie letture, per i miei libri.
Un romanzo che fin dalle prime pagine mi aveva già convinta ad attribuirgli le 4 stelline anobiane.
Aimée Bender sa scrivere, sa raccontare, sa spiazzare, sa confondere, deludere, rallegrare, inorridire... tiene costantemente il nostro bagaglio di emozioni in movimento.
Inizia la sua storia con una fiaba dal retrogusto amaro ma dal lieto fine, ed è a quella fiaba che tutto ritorna.
May 05, 2011 Kwoomac rated it it was ok
There really wasn't much of a plot in this meandering tale of 19 year old woman, who struggles with most aspects of life, who is grounded only by her love of numbers. Implausibly, she becomes a 2nd grade teacher, without any training, because there is a shortage of teachers and the principal saw her doing long-division in a park for fun. Really ! Most of the characters in the book are just variations of the main character, Mona Gray. Her next door neighbor fashions numbers out of wax to wear ...more
Apr 01, 2011 Audrey rated it really liked it
Aimee Bender is one of my new favorite novelist/short story writers. Her short stories, for me, fall into the same category as Kelly Link's work: these magical little gems that are weird and wonderful and can't be nicely wrapped up. There's just something about them that I adore, even when I don't like certain things about them. That's the case with this novel. There was so much that I loved: the language, the symbolism, the quirkiness, the emotion (what a SAD novel this was, in many ways). BUT ...more
Bill H
Jun 16, 2012 Bill H rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was bemused by the some of the criticism of this book I've read here and there, mostly complaining about it requiring too much suspension of disbelief. I'm not sure how the author could have more clearly telegraphed THIS IS A FAIRY TALE without, say, huge flaming letters on a mountaintop. I can see how it would be an unsatisfactory read you were demanding realism, but read it instead without that bias and you'll read, I think, the book the author intended.
Jan 11, 2015 Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
My favorite Bender thus far. Loved everything about this story. The characters, the premise, the prologue... everything. Never stop writing Aimee!!
Sep 09, 2016 christa rated it really liked it
Sometimes I make grand statements about myself that sound like facts but really aren’t true at all. The one running through my head right now is along the lines of how I hate quirky-for-quirkies-sake, but that Aimee Bender avoided that pratfall with her weird world of Mona Gray in the novel “An Invisible Sign of My Own.”

But I don’t really hate quirky-for-quirkies sake. I love Miranda July and her quirkiness is an affectation more jarring than a monocle … god love her. She once set her short sto
Jul 14, 2009 Marielle rated it it was amazing
This book was simply awesome! The character of Mona Gray had many traits that I see in myself. It will make you feel more comfortable with your idiosyncricies, and allow you to realize that you are not the only one who notices you have them. Written in a flowing, funny, easy to read, but poetic style, I soon realized after the first few chapters that this book was rich beyond comparison to most, with many layers of story including heart, life, disease, coming of age, and learning to care about ...more
Siobhán Mc Laughlin
I started out liking this book - the fairytale element, the clever use of numbers as a thematic component, the lovely lyrical language that carries you along in a quicksilver current from line to line, page to page, as in a dream.

But then somehow, somewhere, it flopped. The plot was flimsy, at best. And its dark subject matter - death, cancer, mental illness - is not dealt with sharply enough, hovers as a mere shadow on the narrative that never fully comes into the light. Things are vague, too v
Aug 22, 2015 steffy rated it it was amazing
"...I laugh just like my mother, is what she usually said, in horror. Oh God, she said, I'm so terrified I'm going to be exactly like my mother.
I nodded when she said it, but I never really understood her. I didn't understand the big deal. Everyone said what she said, but it was the opposite that broke my heart."

I think I could love this book by that moment alone, because it truly captures how I have felt about my mom since she passed. But that is not what this story is about, nor is it why I l
Mar 04, 2013 Joanna rated it it was amazing
I just really like Aimee Bender's writing. I was disappointed with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, but loved Willful Creatures. This book gets inside the head of loveable, flawed, slightly OCD Mona. As she goes about her compulsive knocking on wood, and her misplaced focus on certain things to the exclusion of others, I was sailing along. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone. There are no explanations of what's really happening. For example, Mona's father is ill (or is he?) with an unexpl ...more
Nov 24, 2015 Jill rated it really liked it
Aimee Bender constructs her sentences like no other, and I think that's what draws me into her books and stories. She's enchantingly poetic even when she's describing unsavory things (in this case, like the narrator sticking a bar of soap into her mouth. Who would imagine that a scene like that would sound beautiful? But somehow it does).

She also kicks ass at blending the traditional with the unexpected by holding a magnifying glass to characters' quirks and hangups. On the surface, and in the
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
un segno visibile e purtroppo condiviso

meno coeso di L'Inconfondibile tristezza della torta al limone, è tutto incentrato sui problemi di incomunicabilità di Mona e, da un certo punto in poi, sui suoi deliri
tratto caratteriale ossessivo-compulsivo, Mona è una giovane donna che cerca di sopravvivere alle sue idiosincrasie, che sono abbastanza da renderle difficile il rapporto umano, e insegna matematica alle elementari
i danni che può fare una persona con simili problemi in una scuola elementare
Jul 30, 2007 Trin rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, american-lit
I've enjoyed Bender's short stories (collected in The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Wilfull Creatures). This, her only novel, was written in between the two, but unlike her shorter fiction, it really didn't work for me. Mona, the protagonist, is the kind of improbable fictional person who buys herself an axe for her birthday—from a guy who wears wax numbers around his neck that signify his mood. Each new character is stranger-than-thou; this sort of thing worked okay in a short format, but ove ...more
Several years ago, someone recommended Aimee Bender's writing to me because they said her eclectic creativity reminded them of my prose at the time. I never got around to reading her until now, but just couldn't seem to make it through this book. Her stories are in fact very unique & whimsical - that wasn't really an issue. And I honestly wish I could have read more, but it just wasn't grabbing my attention enough...I like reading Don Delillo because he can write about the mundane & ...more
Jamie elizabeth hudrlik
Oct 23, 2007 Jamie elizabeth hudrlik rated it it was amazing
this is my most favorite book ever in the world! i actually got excited to read this each night and i was really sad when i finally finished it because i never wanted it to end.

this book is about imagination. it's about great writing. it's about a girl and her math teacher and the funny ways of thinking about things. it's about getting into people's minds. it's about mona's thoughts and her ax and watching her grow and her neighbor who wears number necklaces everyday that match up to his mood. 1
Kate Rockwell
Dec 03, 2007 Kate Rockwell rated it liked it
The unnatural pace of the novel whole overthrows the five-star pieces below.

"War beats cancer's butt...Cancer doesn't have a butt."

"The house would wilt him in minutes."

"There's something about you...that inflates my heart."

"[T]here is something so awful, so gross about watching someone who loves you struggle to believe what you both know, deep down, is partially a lie."

"The hair smell of his hair."

Mar 21, 2011 Tracy rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. The dangerous thing about Aimee Bender is in her world, there are no rules and therefore awful, bizarre things can happen any time. There's no protection against it. Luckily the copy of the book I got from the library was printed crazily and pages 181-214 were missing. Thanks for not making me read the most stressful part, crazily printed book! I knew it was coming and got to skip on over to after it was over. I may seek out crazily printed books in the future.
Aug 27, 2011 Sneha rated it did not like it
This book was ridiculous. One star only because I liked the author's writing style, but the plot was unrealistic to the point of being nonsensical. It's a weird book about weird people- I wish I could get back the hours of my life that I spent reading it. I get that the story was supposed to be quirky and whimsical, but it was just annoying and stupid. As a math major myself, I find it disheartening that there are so few books about mathematicians where they are portrayed as normal people.
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Aimee Bender is the author of the novel An Invisible Sign of My Own and of the collections The Girl in the Flammable Skirt and Willful Creatures. Her work has been widely anthologized and has been translated into ten languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
More about Aimee Bender...

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“The world can ask you to participate, but it's a day-today decision if you want to agree to that proposal.” 12 likes
“It is all about numbers. It is all about sequence. It's the mathematical logic of being alive. If everything kept to its normal progression, we would live with the sadness--cry and then walk--but what really breaks us cleanest are the losses that happen out of order.” 10 likes
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