Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Now You See Her" by Whitney Otto (Ballantine, 1995)

This book would be an appropriate birthday gift for a woman turning 40, unless of course your recipient is kind of sensitive about hitting the big 4-0. The author of "How to Make an American Quilt" examines women and aging in this novel, which was not as popular as her previous bestseller, thus proving her point: No one cares about middle-aged women.

Kiki Shaw, the protagonist (if you can call her that), is about to turn 40 and notices that she is disappearing. That's not surprising since she has little substance in her own life as the writer for a quiz show. Instead she concentrates on the lives of her two friends and her mother. There's way too much ink spent on her friend who's involved with a married man, though the triangle of them and the man's wife does contrast the two women. Men do not come off well in this novel, as might be expected.

There's a slight twist at the end (which I predicted) and, while there's no neat happily-ever-after ending, Kiki does comes to some awareness. Sprinkled with references to women in art, women and the moon, and the history of women, this is not a feminist diatribe but rather a more subtle look at women who lose (or willingly give up) their lives in this society. Though a bit slow at first, stick with it and you'll end up cheering for Kiki, her friends and even her shallow mother.

Maybe women should read this book long before they approach 40.

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