Review An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender
This is a well written book with a lovely prose style but the plot is unbelievable and the characters are either not likeable or completely weird.
Mona, the main protagonist is a confused and withdrawn twenty year old who takes solace in numbers. Her relationships with other adults is difficult. Her father became ill when she was ten and since then she has withdrawn more and more from life. She becomes a primary maths teacher and this novel tells of her experiences with the children and the way she reacts to their needs and how she is challenged and changes as a result.
Mona is hired to be a primary school maths teacher. She has no teaching qualification but has always had a thing for numbers. Perhaps this could happen in the US but most countries expect teachers to be college trained! She doesn't act rationally and does silly things. I thought the most stupid was taking an axe into her classroom to represent a number “7”. She hung it on her wall which of course led to it being in the hands of a child in a tantrum with disastrous results.
Instead of being sympathetic to Mona I found myself getting annoyed with her for her irrational and incomprehensible behaviour. She shows signs of mental disturbance by knocking on wood in time to her breathing when she gets stressed and by eating soap. Her next door neighbour is a former maths teacher who now runs a hardware store. He too has a strange relationship with numbers and is also mentally unbalanced.
Fiction is an opportunity to work out how other peoples minds work from the inside. This can work really well and offer unique insights into very different perspectives on the world. Perhaps the best example of this is “The curious incident of the dog in the night time” where the world is seen through the eyes of a person with autism. Unfortunately, I didn't find it worked here, perhaps because the plot was weak and confusing. Also I found the ending to the book unsatisfying as it didn't come to an end but stopped without a resolution. I didn't like the book but others have given it good reviews, so perhaps it was just me!
Jean de Beurre
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