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The Invisible Girls

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,549 ratings  ·  407 reviews
Twenty-seven-year-old Sarah Thebarge had it all - a loving boyfriend, an Ivy League degree, and a successful career - when her life was derailed by an unthinkable diagnosis: aggressive breast cancer. After surviving the grueling treatments - though just barely - Sarah moved to Portland, Oregon to start over. There, a chance encounter with an exhausted African mother and he ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 16th 2013 by Jericho Books (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,549 ratings  ·  407 reviews

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Apr 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Very mixed feelings about this one; but I think it's well worth the read. This memoir was really three stories, two of them very absorbing and the third...well, for me, not so much. Briefly, a young woman who was raised in a fundamentalist religious home, grows up to far surpass what was "expected" of a woman. She earns two degrees, becomes a medical professional (with plans also in journalism) but develops breast cancer in her twenties. This part of the story was chilling, heart-breaking, inspi ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
I have no doubt that Thebarge means well. However, this memoir is disjointed, self-serving, and completely privilege blind. It is half of the story; a minute glimpse into the plight of a family of Somalian refugees wholly through the lens of a young, American cancer survivor. We get zero time with the family outside of Thebarge's judgements of and interactions with them. Without these pieces of the story, I have a very hard time believing this project was created to benefit this Somalian family. ...more
Melanie Griffin
Sep 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book, I really did. It was recommended to me by a dear friend who is also a writer, and the topic of immigrants and poverty and spiritual growth are close to my heart. But I can't recommend it. Either the writer is too young to be writing memoir or she is still too close to the events in the book to be able to provide much depth or perspective. I think it's the former, because the tone is self-absorbed and self-congratulatory (we are told about two dozen times that the litt ...more
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: net-galley
I was drawn in by the title of this book, and I must say I am still unclear who exactly Ms. Thebarge means. Is it her, because of her breast cancer diagnosis at an early age; is it the family of Somalians she befriends; or the little girls of that family that are invisible?

This was not an easy read because of all the disjointed ideas and fragmented thoughts. While this is a her account of her experience with medical issues, I found it difficult to believe/understand some of the claims. I, too, a
Dec 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bookclub-s
Absolutely seeped in self-congratulation and condescension, with no small amount of Christian evangelizing. There's probably a good story in here and a worthwhile cause, but... well, the last line of the book is literally a child telling the author "... when I grow up, I want to be just like you." FIN. ...more
Paul Sims
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this post from Sarah on a Saturday, ordered the book almost immediately and had it in hand early the next week. Within 36 hours from the time I glanced at the first pages, I'd read the entire thing. I hardly ever do this – some books take me months to read.
A number of things about this book intrigued me. First is the interplay between the story of how a young woman grappled with a double mastectomy and her interaction with a Somali family lost in a culture they didn't understand.
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
A memoir. I seem to be reading more memoirs these days than I have at any other point in my life. Maybe it's because more people are writing them? Or because people are taking memoir more seriously? Or because I'm taking memoir more seriously now that I've hit the wise, old age of 26? Probably, it partially has something to do with the rise of blogs and the coveted blog-to-book-deal dream.

I think this one was a blog-to-book-deal. At least, TheBarge mentions a blog. I tried to find it, but all I
Karen ⊰✿
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uno_2019
This is really three books in one.
There is the story of how Sarah meets a Somali refugee family on a train and immediately feels a connection with them, and so befriends the mother and her five girls and becomes a part of her life.
Then there is the flashback story to when, at 27, Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is told with very honest emotion and feelings ; not just the shock and physical pain, but also how it seemed that her friends, and fiancee, all seemed to distance themselve
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sarah Thebarge’s The Invisible Girls: A Memoir is a testament to endurance, hope, and selflessness. Sarah grew up a pastor’s child in a conservative Christian family. As a young adult, her future seemed bright. A bright student, she earned a pair of Ivy League degrees in journalism and medicine. Mr. Right seemed close to proposing. That is until cancer derailed the trajectory of her life and she found herself on the brink of death. After narrowly surviving, she fled her life and found herself in ...more
Meghan K
Mar 04, 2013 rated it liked it
When I read the back of the book - I was intrigued. A young woman, lost in life due to her struggle with cancer, encounters a family of immigrants on a bus. She connects with them and finds common ground with the "invisible girls." It's an uplifting journey for the family and the author, though ultimately leaves a bit to be desired.

I'm not sure what the lesson is. I know that we need to make the plight of unseen immigrants more visible. At the end of the day, I understand that there is a huge i
Tim Newell
Feb 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audiobook
This was a great read for 3/4. The parallel and comparative stories of the authors struggle with breast cancer and the Somali girls' struggle to survive in the US was engaging and heart wrenching. The question of why God would cause or, at least, allow this incredible suffering is a damn good question and not one that I expected the author to really answer.

But all of a sudden she did answer it. She used the story of a child in pain from an IV needle and the mother knowing that the pain was nece
Leah Good
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, non-fiction, 2018
This book combined two things very relatable to me...
1. Outreach to a family in need of friendship which is something I aspire to and dream of.
2. A memoir of a cancer journey something I have not experienced personally but have walked out alongside my mom, grandmother, grandfather, and several friends. Sarah's cancer story even took place at Yale New Haven Hospital where I and my family can navigate the cancer wing quite well.

The Invisible Girls beautifully blends pain and joy, hope and heart
Lilly Cannon
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I am Strictly in a Love/Like relationship with this book, I Love to like it and i like to love it...

phewwwww, where to start?

Anyone who has had Cancer, YOU.FRICKIN.ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!! whether they survived or not, to fight something inside you, you could give up and end it quickly, but you stay and fight! and know you could lose sight of yourself because of it... I hope y'all realise how strong you are even if you can't hold a plastic cup and your eyelids are 10 kilo weights, YOU.ARE.AMAZING!

On wi
Camille Dent
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Shelves: non-fiction
I give this book 2 stars because I appreciate that the proceeds of the book and donations will go to sending the Somali girls to college. The cause is respectable, but the actual book was close to terrible, in my opinion. The writing was so transparent and bland that I read this in less that two days, which may sound slow to some but is actually pretty quick for me.

The jumping back and forth between her cancer story and helping the Somali family felt just like that: jumping. It was almost like
Mary Blye Kramer
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Sometimes you just kind of hate to review a book - or at least I do - because you desperately WANT to give it more stars. Here’s the down side to the book: the writing is a bit juvenile, and if you’re not a Christian, the simplistic view of God and theology will make you a bit crazy. I cringe when Christians wring their hands wondering why God has abandoned them when genocides are still occurring, millions of malnourished babies are dying, and pedophiles exist. The author just can’t accept “rand ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Many of the reviews complain that the story is too centered on the author herself, when it should have been more about the refugees she took under her wing.

I took it at a greater context, that there are invisibles everywhere, even the author, who as a single, young cancer survivor, didn't quite fit anywhere.

The story wasn't the most well written, but it was compelling, and it provided a small glimpse into the lives of refugees. A reminder that the struggles they face are far greater than langua
Hannah Rodriguez
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
a lot of mixed feelings about this.......
probably more like 3.5
it was a good story with a potential for a really good message but it was pretty fragmented and at times I wished there would have been more of the Somali girls
Sandra Winfrey
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and heartbreaking memoir that reads like a novel. I could not put it down. I grew to love the story and I’m inspired.
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book is poignent, funny, and heartbreaking, one of those page-turners that takes you through the emotional spectrum. Sarah weaves together two narratives: her story of being diagnosed at 27 with breast cancer and the treatment that followed, and her subsequent move from Connecticut to Oregon, where she befriended a family of Somali refugees. Over the course of several months, she formed a deep relationship with Hadhi and her five daughters, Fahri, Abdallah, Sadaka, Lelo, and Chaki. Sarah hel ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge took my breath away. Sarah told of her life, her pain, and how a chance meeting of a destitute Somali mother and her five daughters, immigrants who helped to heal her soul, spirit and heart. This is a collage of her personal conflict, past and present, rooted in her strict and structured Christian background, her devastation over being diagnosed with breast cancer, having the surgery and treatment and coming to terms with her new body. What makes this book s ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
May 14, 2013 rated it liked it
This memoir tells two parallel stories: one is the story of Sarah's battle with breast cancer in her 20s, the other takes place a few years later when she meets a Somali immigrant mother and her four daughters and becomes involved in their lives. Sarah was raised as a fundamentalist and, throughout her besieging by cancer at such a young age, she also struggles with questions of faith: why would a loving God let something so horrible happen to her? Both stories are very affecting and engrossing. ...more
Luke Taylor
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Unflinchingly raw and honest and humbling, it is impossible to read The Invisible Girls with dry eyes. This painful memoir of true loss and gain by Sarah Thebarge deftly balances the ravaging evils of breast cancer with the purity of a woman stretching far beyond her own skin to be a Saint to those in desperate need. This beautiful book is a one-night experience, though through Thebarge’s skillful writing and respectful tone, one can linger through the work with a vivid and life-changing picture ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Wonderful true story of a young breast cancer survivor who encounters a Somalian family living a below-poverty line existence, and then, together with the help of some friends, reaches out and helps them with some basic needs and forms a familial bond with these "invisible girls' and their mother. Thebarge's writing is beautiful and moving, even though she jumps back and forth in time in each chapter. Inspiring story of struggle, healing and love.
Highly recommend.
Jenne Glover
Jan 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The story of a girl who helps a desperate family, and in turn pulls herself out of desperation. I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It takes place in my home town, which of course adds interest. I easily recommend this book!
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very touching memoir. The author befriends a family from Somalia who just arrived in Portland, and finds that she needs them as much as they need her.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Well, that was an unexpected treat. I borrowed this audiobook from the library because I am on long waiting lists for several other books I want to listen to, and this was available. I had never even heard of if before, but thought the synopsis sounded appealing.

I did not expect it to be so lovely. It is not the usual Western-person-helps-poor-person-and-gets-inspiration book. The author herself was so broken and hurting when she met the refugee girls. At first I was worried that it would be a
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it
A memoir written by Sarah Thebarge about her breast cancer at age 27 that leads to the loss of all her identity and dreams and her slow climb back to life. Sarah Thebarge was raised as a PK in a fundamental home with quite legalistic rules. When she is diagnosed with cancer, undergoes several surgeries and complications, loses her supposedly future husband, and her career comes to a screeching halt, she loses any trust in God. Sarah moves to Portland, Oregon where she meets a mother had her 5 ch ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
An authentic, well-told memoir about a Biola and Yale-trained PA who survived St3 cancer, dubbing herself an invisible girl, who then encounters more "invisible girls" ( female Somali refugees) on the MAX in Portland. Yes, ironically, this is the same pub transit lightrail whereby an attack on an ethnic by a Caucasian deranged man occurred this year.

In the midst of second Ivy League Education, she is dx with cancer. Redemptive and explores how humans can save humans, in love. The family saved he
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this memoir as an audiobook. Intriguing as it was, a bit heavy on “ woe is me” with the author’s intricate details of her health issues. Would have liked more info about the Somali girls. The fact that the narrator could not properly pronounce mastectomy really grated at my nerves. Overall, glad I read it.
Jan 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Insight into the experience of immigrants. Sarah Thebarge knows what it is like to be invisible after her early encounter with cancer and so she is quick to see the hurt of others. Overall, the memoir feels a bit indulgent as she makes it a story of her own heroism and victimhood. There isn't a lot of nuance here but it is a quick and interesting story. ...more
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