Cover Image: Invisible Woman

Invisible Woman

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Member Reviews

*Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book for review, all opinions are my own*

2.5 stars

I don't really know what I expected from this book, but unfortunately in the end I didn't like it that much, it's an interesting book but I think the execution left something to be desired at times. The plot is interesting and you are intrigued for some part of the book but when you discover the big plot twist the book stops being so captivating and you just want to finish the book as quickly as possible, it is a quick story to read so if you like suspenses that are easy and quick reads with older female protagonists maybe you'll like this book!

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***advance review copy received from NetGalley in return for an honest review***
This felt like a book that didn’t know quite what it wanted to be - a MeToo novel, a murder mystery thriller, an off-brand Girl On the Train. There was a third act reveal that didn’t make sense to me - something that would (should) really have either impacted the plot, revealed something deeper about what we’d understood up to that point; but instead seemed to serve as a mild shock and nothing more.
The “bad guy” is, I would think, obvious to the reader from the get-go, which maybe is the point - it’s confirmed fairly early in the book. What I found disappointing was that the main protagonist didn’t also seem to find this obvious - in my opinion, the “bad guy” character ought to have appeared better to the protagonist. Instead we are left with a flat reveal, as whilst the character doesn’t for some reason suspect, when it does come out, they don’t feel shocked by it particularly.

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Set in the #MeToo era, this is a thriller told from the perspective of a woman whose husband is a Hollywood bigwig. It was a fun, fast-paced read with a couple twists that surprised me. I didn't feel super connected to the characters, which I don't think is usually a problem for a book like this, but I did feel a little bit removed from the storytelling as a whole.

But, that being said, this is a very feminist thriller and I love that about it. The vibe is definitely "I support women's rights and women's wrongs" and it works.

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Set in the midst of the #MeToo movement, and heavily influenced by the works of Patricia Highsmith and the noir storytelling tradition, Invisible Woman is a subversive and thought-provoking exploration of marriage, womanhood, motherhood, and friendship.

In the 1970s, Joni Ackerman was an up-and-coming Hollywood film director -- one of the only women to break into a field that, at that time, was even more male-dominated than it is today. But she stepped away from her career to marry Paul, a television producer whose star was steadily on the rise, and raise their children. Now, more than two decades later, Joni and Paul have relocated to a Brooklyn mansion from Los Angeles and are about to throw a party celebrating the beginning of Paul's East Coast entertainment takeover. But on the eve of the party, a scandal rocks the film industry, which brings a long-ago incident involving her friend Val to the front of Joni's mind. After years without contact, Joni decides to reach out to Val...and their reunion will bring about explosive consequences in both of their lives.

Invisible Woman is a well-constructed work of character-driven psychological suspense that explores the life of a woman in late middle age, who has grown children, a stale marriage, and too much time on her hands. Katia Lief takes us deep into Joni's complicated and messy inner life, and we sympathize with her even if we don't entirely trust her. Lief's character work and dialogue are stellar as she fleshes out Joni's relationships -- with her husband, with her daughters, with Val, and with the hired help. In a narrative that is as psychologically compelling as it is propulsive, Lief explores feminism, classism, and the complexities of our closest relationships.

Invisible Woman is not a thriller in the traditional sense; it's a bit quieter and more meditative than a mainstream thriller, but still the narrative takes some shocking turns. Both Lief's writing and the narrative flow smoothly, even as the book continuously shape-shifts from one type of story to another. It kept me completely riveted and off-balance, unsure how everything was going to play out. Although I've read plenty of stories like this -- with unreliable narrators, destructive secrets, and #MeToo themes -- Invisible Woman managed to feel completely fresh. Thank you to Atlantic Monthly Press and NetGalley for the early reading opportunity.

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I used to read this author under the name Kate Pepper. I believe. I really enjoyed those books, so I was super-excited for something newer. I wanted to love this one, but it begins very slowly. Once it picks up, and it does, about 30% in, it becomes a pretty good ride. Joni, already in an unhappy marriage moves with her family to New York for her husband's career. Her friend Val from long ago was raped by a man when they were both students. Val never reported the rape. Now a famous producer is being accused of a rape. Joni knows this was the same man who hurt her friend all those years ago and she urges Val to come forward. This story encompasses a lot of things. Female friendship, the way women are treated in the workplace sometimes, #MeToo and rape justice just to name a few. Overall, I liked this one once it picked up.

Thank you to #NetGalley, Katia Leif and Grove Atlantic, Atlantic Monthly Press for this ARC. All opinions are my own.

I will post my review to Amazon, Instagram and other retail and social media sites upon publication.

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So what did this book do well? First, it was entertaining. It was fast paced and never bored me. there was always this sense of mystery and intrigue that helped push the narrative forward. However, this is a thin line to toe because by the end of the book, I was questioning a lot of the legitimacy and realisticness of the actions of the book. Also, I just love women’s fiction.

now onto the bad. I felt like the first 75% of this book was great. A woman has to reevaluate her life, her relationships, her position in society. But near the end of the book, I felt like we started veering off into a completely new story that was no longer a story about a woman finding herself. The sudden shift in story was just…unexpected? I didn't really enjoy the ending, at least not as much as the first part of the book.

Overall, definitely give this a read. It was entertaining, fun, and definitely memorable.

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Fast paced and with the times, Invisible Woman is a story of catharsis in the form of feminist revenge. I found this book easy to read and hard to put down, with characters that were flawed yet understandable. There were also twists that I predicted, and others that I was utterly shocked by. Highly recommend!

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A literary thriller so well written a true page turner.I sat down to read a few pages and could not put it down.Great thriller to start the year.#netgalley #groveatlantic

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Invisible Woman by Katia Lief is a page turner, psychological thriller with an unreliable protagonist. Joni Ackerman, is a former feminist filmmaker, who put her career on hold to raise a family and support her husband’s career. Flash forward 25 years and Joni and her husband are living the good life in New York City. As the MeToo movement comes into focus, and an important case begins to splash across all the national news venues, Joni is reminded of a terrible secret that she and her best friend from her college days have kept hidden. Emboldened by the women who come forward to make their case, Joni seeks out her old friend. As the two women begin to rekindle their friendship, Joni encourages her friend to reveal their secret to the world. In doing so, Joni discovers more to the story than she initially remembers.

The premise of this story was compelling and written in a way that kept me turning the pages. This short book, under 300 pages, is an easy 1-2 sitting read. There were some plot points that seemed incomplete which was frustrating for me as a reader. I do enjoy an unreliable narrator, but found Joni’s heavy reliance on alcohol throughout the book, to be overdone, making it challenging to continue to root for her.

If you are looking for page turner, psychological thriller with a feminist slant, The Invisible Woman by Katia Lief might just be the read for you.

3.25 Stars

Thank you to Net Galley and Atlantic Monthly Press for the eARC of Invisible Woman by Katia Lief

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Would recommend for fans of…
🐈‍⬛ Patricia Highsmith
🐈‍⬛ The Wife
🐈‍⬛ Complicit

Invisible Woman is a literary thriller set in MeToo-era Hollywood, following Joni, a filmmaker, as she reckons with her former friend’s connection to a disgraced producer and a secret that is about to be discovered.

This book is very idea heavy and I think it could be a great discussion starter around topics including gender roles, complicity, and workplace toxicity. Throughout the story, Joni’s inner thoughts are put front and center and reading her views on being a career woman and mother offered an interesting example of how even the most progressive people can internalize harmful attitudes and expectations, actions that make them complicit in the larger system. It’s definitely a book I’ll be thinking about for some time.

Despite some large and weighty topics, Invisible Woman is still a page turner. It’s pretty short (~300 pages) and is the kind of story that will have you losing track of time. I think some of the twists might be predictable for seasoned thriller readers, but the writing and characterization are both unmatched.

Invisible Woman is out today. Thanks to NetGalley and Atlantic Monthly Press for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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A thriller but make it literary and with meaning?! Sign me up. That is exactly what you will find within the pages of Invisible Woman. And with it being under 300 pages, this is a fantastic one sit read that will keep you turning pages.

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Joni Ackerman wrote and directed two feminist-inspired, award-winning films in the 80s and 90s, but then faded from the spotlight. She married Paul Lovett, who’d become a famous and influential TV producer, and had two children. Now empty nesters, she and Paul have moved into a Brooklyn mansion, and are about to throw a major party to celebrate his arrival in the Big Apple, which should also be his coronation as the king of television production.

But then one of Paul’s longtime friends and colleagues, an equally successful Hollywood producer, is indicted on sexual assault charges. It’s then that Joni recalls the horrible attack suffered by her friend Val at his hands…and also remembers there was a second man. But she doesn’t remember who, and she calls Val to beg her to come forward and identify him if she can. That, however, brings up painful memories and might just put good people in danger.

Books like this have me rushing for the Goodreads page, searching for the “genre” tab. Sure, it ain’t right to pigeonhole an author’s work, but I was curious. So, GR says, “Fiction / Suspense / Thriller”. All three are true, but I’d say the middle word is the most apt.

Slow burn is the style at the beginning, but then there’s an unexpected act of violence that had me on the edge of my seat. It’s at that point that we see the gradual, sad, and heartbreaking unraveling of Joni’s behavior and psychology. She clearly has some problems: alcohol and marital issues among them. She also starts thinking about what might have been: she was a great filmmaker, but raising children cut that down, and might have even been stifled by an overbearing husband.

Thus, the novel reveals itself to be that brand of “psychological suspense,” where the protagonist devolves and spins amidst interpersonal chaos. What makes this stronger than most is that it’s hard to say how much of that is self-created, and how much is at the hands of people she trusts. Lief does a good job of making Joni both flawed and likeable. A little more action might have stirred up the slower, expository passages, but some subtle twist or turn was right around the corner. That’s true even when it seems Joni’s done those things to herself.

For such an interesting, complex topic, Lief also keeps the plot compact. Despite the social issues that pervade the story, she always keeps it in the realm of mystery and intrigue. She incorporates #metoo deftly into the character’s stories, emphasizing the movement’s importance within Joni and Val’s lives, and showing its impact on the entertainment industry.

The action in the last third is satisfying, riveting, brilliantly detailed, and an excellent consequence of what was going on with Joni’s world. There are lots of paths this could’ve taken, and I wasn’t sure where it would go, a recipe for a thrilling page-turner. There’s also an interesting twist, and that helped keep the flow quick and easy. This will have you searching Patricia Highsmith: a ton of references here, and since I’ve only read The Talented Mr. Ripley (ages ago, at that), maybe I need to add that to the ol’ TBR.

Finally, I was impressed with the language. Something just struck me about it: it’s third person, so not truly Joni’s voice, but it just seemed an exceptionally accurate reflection of her thoughts and feelings. Sentences were short, and the syntax both easy to read and filled with great descriptions, good word choices, and lots and lots of “SHOW” rather than “TELL.”

Oh, and yeah: it takes place in my hometown, Brooklyn. I know just about all the spots here, so she had me with familiarity.

Unique and creative in its storytelling, swift and intelligent in its writing, and exciting and compelling as a suspense novel. Start paying attention to Katia Lief as a star in this genre!

Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for a complimentary advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Once an acclaimed filmmaker in her own right, Joni now spends her days as the supportive wife of her TV producer husband. Lonely and unmoored in a new city, and haunted by a secret from the past, Joni reaches out to an old friend from her twenties. Events spiral from there, leaving at least one person dead and raising the question: can you really trust your spouse?

This book deftly portrays the experience of middle-aged women who’ve stepped back from their careers to raise kids. Joni loved being a stay-at-home mother, but decades later she questions whether she made the right decision. Joni is messy, complicated and not always a trustworthy narrator, but readers will find themselves rooting for her.

I loved the twists and turns this book took. Just when I thought I had a handle on Joni as a character, a twist I did not see coming absolutely shook me.

Invisible Woman combines the interiority and well-crafted characters of literary fiction with the fast-paced plot of a thriller. I had tons of fun reading it!

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Katia Lief, Invisible Woman, Grove Atlantic, Atlantic Monthly Press Jan 2024.

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with this uncorrected proof for review.

Reading the first chapters of Invisible Woman was an absolute thrill. I was so impressed with the way in which Leif combined a sympathetic character in Joni Ackerman, her back and forth feelings about her husband, Paul, and her situation as a domestic partner, housewife, mother and former winner of accolades for her films. She demonstrates all the challenges women of former public status face when they become the extra in their successful husband’s life. Joni is the woman who drifts around their huge party, recognised by few of the guests as anything other than their hostess, missing her daughters, harbouring a secret, and determined to act.

Joni reads several Patricia Highsmith’s novels as she ruminates on her marriage, and her past. This holds a secret that is not hers to tell but the aims of the MeToo movement becomes personal, as a rapist known to her is successfully accused by some of his victims. Joni attempts to persuade her friend to divulge her past that also involves this man and a mystery man. Val’s reluctance to make any accusations appears to be faltering when she agrees to meet Joni after several unsuccessful attempts to renew their friendship. She is almost killed.

I appreciated the clever introduction of Patricia Highsmith’s novels in which the perpetrator of a crime often escapes legal punishment. They also often find that such escape is an empty victory. Joni’s speculation about murder, her imaginary conversations, and her reflections on her situation are echoes of Highsmith’s work. Another positive is the realistic depiction of a woman whose past success has been silently, softly, but so firmly, closed down by her partner.

Where I lost my earlier satisfaction with reading this book was as what began as excellent social commentary, with sympathetic understanding and depiction of the challenges to Joni and Val’s validity as women who deserved to be visible, became lost in the resolution. I felt that the novel moved into different territory in some ways, and therefore did not meet my early expectations. However, despite this disappointment, I am keen to read more of Leif’s work. I suspect that she will always have an original approach to her characters, their actions, and their role in intricate plots. Probably this approach does lend itself to disappointment at times. On the other hand, it also suggests that a Katia Leif novel will not be boring – and to me this is an excellent reason to read another.

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Invisible Woman touches upon the themes of loyalty, trauma, and the difficult choices individuals face when confronting past traumas. The narrative explores the dilemma Val experiences as she grapples with the decision to speak out about her assault, considering not only her own pain but also the potential impact on her friend Joni and her seemingly happy family. It delves into the complexity of personal relationships in the face of difficult revelations, shedding light on the internal struggles of survivors and the broader implications of breaking silence within the #MeToo movement.

This debut novel introduces heavy themes from the start, showcasing a surprising blend of literary fiction and attempts at a crime thriller. The smooth flow of the authorʼs writing aligns well with the literary genre, but the attempt to steer toward a crime thriller may not have been the most effective way to market this. The predictable storyline and lack of surprising revelations throughout the narrative, except for a sudden and seemingly unnecessary twist at the very end, can potentially distract from the main theme, leaving a less satisfying reading experience for some.

While I initially found Joni and Valʼs friendship engaging in the strong first part of the book, my investment dissipated at the main climax. The narrative failed to solidify its intended message or deliver a compelling portrayal of womenʼs experiences. After finishing the book, I was left with a lukewarm feeling, lacking the emotional resonance or sense of empowerment that I had hoped for from the story.

If youʼre interested in a story that delves into the complexities of the entertainment industry and touches on feminist themes, it could be worth your time. 😊

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This was a quick read and was an engaging thriller with a flawed and unreliable protagonist and plenty of twists. 4 stars. Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review an advanced copy!

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MeToo revelations hit Joni hard because she's been keeping a secret for thirty years. Once a promising film maker, she stepped back from the business when she married Paul, a producer. Now, though, she's bored, she's reading Patricia Highsmith, and she wants her old friend Val to step out and point the finger at Lou Pridgen, the Hollywood producer who assaulted her all those years ago. Only thing is, there was a second man. Astute readers of the genre might guess the twist but Joni's motives are something else. It's all about the secrets and lies that can boomerang in unexpected ways. While it starts slow, this novel picks up and adds tension along the way. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. For fans of literary fiction.

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Long-held secrets, betrayed friendships, frayed marriages, this one has it all. Quite different from Lief's previous works, but just as well written, with rich characterizations and stunning plot twists. Very readable and enjoyable.

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Gritty and intense, this literary thriller is a suspenseful story revolving around the #metoo movement. Joni Ackerman sacrificed her successful career as a filmmaker 25 years ago to start and raise a family. In the present time, she and her husband, Paul, relocate to Brooklyn so he can launch a production company. Simultaneously, a scandal breaks out in the industry that involves her best friend, Val, who is reluctant to speak out. This story is an intricately plotted expose on friendship and marriage and the bonds that hold those relationships together. It also explores the reasons why women are so horribly wronged but sadly afraid to come forth and expose the perpetrators. I thought this book started out kind of slow but it picked up around 30% and took me on a twisty ride. And can we just take a moment to admire that beautiful cover art! Thank you Netgalley, Grove Atlantic, and the author for this eARC in exchange for my honest review. This book will be available for purchase on January 9, 2024

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In the Invisible Woman I struggled to get into the narrative or connect with any of the characters, which is a sad because the premise sounded so interesting. I had high hopes that I would since it was dealing with the hot topic of the #metoo movement. The book started off pretty slow and I found myself waiting for things to pick up, only to be disappointed because everything unfolded in an underwhelming manner. #netgalley #invisiblewoman

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