Years ago I watched a movie starring Barbara Streisand called The Mirror Has Two Faces. I can't remember much about the movie except that Bryan Adams sang on the soundtrack (and I was practically in love with Bryan Adams) and the female lead was not confident about her appearance or her attractiveness to men.
I could relate.
When I looked in the mirror, I didn't like what I saw, and I didn't believe anyone else who said they saw something different.
Almost 20 years later, the struggle isn't as intense, but it's still a battle. And it's this image battle that novelist Ginny Yttrup writes about in her new book Invisible.
Ellyn is the owner and head chef of a restaurant in Mendocino, California. She's also overweight, has never had a relationship with a man and she's skeptical when a widowed doctor, Miles, shows interest in her. She hears a voice in her head (she calls him "Earl") that constantly puts her down. She loves butter. (Who doesn't?)
Twila works at a shop owned by her mom. They specialize in herbal medicines, organic foods, and natural products. Twila bears a tattoo of thorns on her face, a mark of solidarity with those who suffer. She is thin and recovering from an eating disorder (she calls it "Ed") and re-establishing a healthy relationship with food.
Sabina has come to Mendocino to escape. She's a therapist carrying a suitcase stuffed with guilt and battling depression. She's on a break from her practice, her family and God. Each day is a struggle to get out of bed.
Ellyn befriends Twila and Sabina and as the three of them get to know each other and their "issues," they realize they aren't as different as they might seem on the outside. Each of them, with the help of the others, is on a journey to discover who they are and why they've hidden behind food, an eating disorder and professional success.
I don't know how she does it, but Yttrup creates characters that could walk off the page and into your living room. Invisible is an honest look at what happens in the female mind, and how distorted our view of ourselves can be. I found myself able to identify with each woman for a different reason.
This quote is one of my favorites from the book: "Beauty is more than a number on the scale. It comes from the soul."
And if you like the writings of Christian saints, you'll appreciate Yttrup's inclusion of quotes from St. Augustine at the start of each chapter. A quote from his writings plays a major role in the theme of the book. (Yttrup did this with Madame Guyon in her last book, Lost and Found. I appreciate the ancient-modern connection.)
Yttrup has a unique style. Each chapter is written from the first-person perspective of one of the characters. Sometimes I had to go back and remind myself who was talking, but the chapters are short and the movement of the characters toward wholeness is fluid and hard to step away from.
I enjoyed reading this book on my own but think it would be even more meaningful in a discussion group with other women. So, if you're looking for a book club read or you have a group of girlfriends who like to read and talk, I'd put this one on the list.
In exchange for my review, I received a free copy of Invisible from Handlebar Marketing.