Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman
paperback; 416 pages
paperback; 416 pages
Invisible as Air by Zoe Fishman is a very highly recommended family drama with a timely topic.
Sylvie Snow does everything for her family. She's working hard at her career, taking care of her family, doing all all the housework and errands, along with the myriad of other little things that are expected of her. She's also trying to plan the Bar Mitzvah for her son, Teddy and taking care of her husband, Paul, who has a broken ankle. It is an exhausting, pressure-filled, never ending cycle. What makes it worse is that Sylvie has never properly grieved for her stillborn daughter, Delilah, who died three years ago. It is the anniversary of Delilah's death and to get through the day Sylvie takes one of the pain pills, Hydrocodone, her husband was prescribed but refuses to take. The Hydrocodone alleviates her stress and anger, while making Sylvie feel good, happy, calm, and patient, so she decides she will allow herself to take it, once in a while, to take the edge off and help her just get through until the Bar Mitzvah is over.
Although she started out with good intentions, Sylvie doesn't take the opioid occasionally. She begins to use it regularly and is soon addicted. While they can tell something is up with Sylvie, her family has their own issues. Paul has been mourning the death of Delilah and the distant behavior of Sylvie through excessive spending and his triathlete events. Now he's almost helpless with his broken ankle. Teddy is twelve, almost thirteen, love movies, and has no friends - until he meets Krystal. Teddy is also the first to realize that his mom is addicted to pills.
In Invisible as Air, Fishman totally captured my attention and presented some of the most realistic, well-developed characters I have read recently. I was not expecting to become so involved and immersed in this novel, but I understood Sylvie. The death of a child is a tragic event and you have to grieve your loss, and talk about it - but who wants to do that with you. I wanted to shake Sylvie and tell her to talk to someone, go to the doctor and tell her how you feel. Get help, for goodness sakes! But it is easier to keep rolling along, staying in denial, trying to hide your pain while it keeps eating at you. And keep doing all the things, all the time. And the whole family is doing this, hiding their pain and not facing it. When she turns to pills, it seems inevitable she would become addicted. It wasn't until the end of the novel that I discovered why Fishman was able to describe the feeling of loss but trying to go on, bless her heart.
The writing is excellent. The narrative moves along at a fast pace as the chapters alternate between the point-of-view of Sylvie, Paul, and Teddy. More information about each character is revealed along the way, and we see some of the root causes of the ongoing pain and the void they are all experiencing, and how they are dealing with everything. Obviously, Teddy knows more than his parents realize, as is the way with tweens (and teens), and he becomes more his own person rather than just their son. Paul has been hiding his shopping addiction too - and I like that Fishman has Paul addicted to online shopping rather than falling into a stereotype.
Invisible as Air would be an excellent choice for a book club. Here is a family in crisis that appears for all intents and purposes to those around them as doing well. It covers the timely topic of an opioid addiction, as well as the loss of a loved one, other addictions, first love, and facing some hard realities. The ending was a satisfying denouement for me and I appreciated how Teddy was the one to help his parents confront everything they were avoiding. Fantastic writing and an emotionally compelling narrative make this a winner.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins for the TLC Book tour.