Thrillers: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell and The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Both of these thrillers are worth reading–even if they aren’t totally surprising, they do contain plenty of suspense, some misdirection, and the writing is just so good.

Invisible Girl is a tale told from multiple points of view which features a central mystery about a series of sexual assaults and how all the characters are related to them. There’s the mom, Cate with her psychologist husband and her two normalish kids who maybe seems a little rudderless. There’s the titular invisible girl, Saffyre, love the name and the spelling, who is damaged goods, but the reader isn’t sure how. She had been a patient of Cate’s husband, Roan, but now appears to be stalking him. Then there’s Owen. He’s an odd duck, a teacher at a local college, who lives with his aunt (and he’s over 30); accused of sexual harassment early on and somehow involved in the mystery, but you’ll have to read it to find out how. The best thing about this novel is that it doesn’t give in to the stereotypes–the characters are neither perfect nor completely worthless–they are somewhere in between. The events of the novel are not a lesson in anything, they are a portrayal of a story that might happen anywhere–anywhere human beings live. There’s no big twist, but there is some doubt leftover at the end, which most thriller readers will appreciate. Mystery not quite solved…

If you enjoy a gripping read with nuanced characters, this is a fantastic choice. Stayed up late to finish it!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Cate’s character grow over the course of the novel? 
  2. What do you think is the motivation propelling Saffyre to follow Roan?
  3. Did you find Owen sympathetic? Is he a reliable narrator of his own story? Why or why not?
  4. Did you find any part of the story something that might actually happen? Which parts?
  5. Which character did you find most relatable? Why?
  6. What was it in the story that kept you in suspense?

The Plot is also a thriller, but of a more complex nature.  It is kind of like if You and Medea had a love child, it would be this book. I don’t want to spoil it, so that is all I will say about the actual plot.  The Plot is told from the point of view of our main character, a writer who has always dreamed of writing the Great American Novel.  He had a decent first book, but his second was weak and he ends up teaching in a “low residency” MFA program in Vermont. When a student reveals his idea for a novel that he thinks can’t fail, Jake agrees and waits, painfully, for the book to debut.  Fast forward a few years.  Jake has descended even further down the food chain in publishing, working as a freelance editor and book coach (!), when something jogs his memory;  he recalls that the book never came out and he hasn’t heard from the student.  Jake discovers after a few Google searches that the student died just a couple of months after the end of the writing program and the book never went to press.  He digs further and finds that no one seems to know anything about the manuscript. You know what happens next…

Jake becomes a best selling author, darling of the reviewers, the talk shows, Oprah even chooses his book for her book club. He is riding high when the first message comes: I know what you did. 

Korelitz’s novel examines what it means to be a writer when “anyone can write a book” and “everyone has a unique voice and a story nobody else can tell.” One gets the idea she is winking at the reader all the way through the novel.  It’s a thriller, and there is a puzzle, but the puzzle isn’t the thing. This is a novel for book lovers; there are so many Easter eggs for literature geeks, I am sure I missed several.  My favorite was when Jake salves his conscience with thoughts straight from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic–if he doesn’t write the novel, the idea will leave him and go to another writer–he has to write it, of course he does! There are loads of places where the bibliophile will smile, smirk, and knowingly chuckle–this book is for you. Jake is so focused on himself and his writing, he misses what is right in front of him, which the astute reader surely will not. 

Artfully done, and the right readers will enjoy the ride for all it is worth. I will post the Discussion Questions on a separate document and make a link to it here to keep from ruining the book for you. Savor it.

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.

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