If the literary output of Jodi Picoult were to mate with that of Michael Crichton, the resulting progeny would almost certainly resemble a Carla Buckley novel. With the publication of Invisible, her second novel, Buckley has staked her claim as the leading purveyor of the domestic thriller. In so much as, she forces her average family to face the trials and tribulations unleashed on them from extreme outside forces and unexpected danger.
Invisible is the story of the Carlson family. As the novel begins, Dana Carlson gets a call from her niece asking her to come home because her mother, Dana’s sister, is dying. Unfortunately, she does not make it to Julie’s bedside in time.
The story that follows is told via alternating viewpoints. First from that of Dana, who left town suddenly in her late teens with no plans and no desire to ever return; then from the perspective of Peyton, her niece, who blames her Aunt Dana for not being there to support the family during Julie’s illness.
Being back in Black Bear, Minnesota, Dana must face all the family, friends, lovers and enemies that she thought she had left behind forever and plans to keep her visit as short as possible. All of that changes when she finds her sister’s journal and realizes that Julie may have stumbled upon a conspiracy that is putting the whole town at risk. Vowing to stay to investigate why there are an unusually high number of cancer patients in the small town of Black Bear, Dana is also subliminally trying to heal her fractured family.
At the same time, Peyton is struggling over the death of her mother and could use an Aunt more than ever, if only she could get past her anger. Lashing out at everyone she can, Peyton is quickly going under. Will the answer to why her Aunt left town all those years ago help her through the grieving process?
One of Carla Buckley’s strengths is that she is able to create very human characters. The reader immediately cares about what happens to them, seeing in the characters flaws which they themselves would like to overcome. Buckley reminds us that no one is perfect and sometimes the choices we make have consequences that are impossible to predict.
The central threat to the community which Julie had stumbled onto is very well researched and is explained clearly to the reader. There is no doubt it will make the reader think about the ramifications of this type of thing happening in the real world; except, as with most moral dilemmas, there are no easy answers – only choices.
There is also quite a compelling side mystery that involves Dana’s work as a demolition expert. Since it serves mainly to give Dana a reason to stay longer in Black Bear, it lacks a bit of depth, but what is there is very believable and intriguing. It is always nice to see characters that have facets of themselves that are not directly related to the novel’s main plot. It just makes them that much more realistic. And if there is one thing that can be said about Invisible, it is that Carla Buckley makes it easy for her readers to believe all of this is happening right outside our homes every day.
Scheduling update: In case you missed it, please check out the BOLO Books interview with Carla Buckley here.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.