A little more than six years ago Aimee Bender visited Mankato for the Good Thunder reading series. At that time I went to every reading, but I only bought the author's book if it really had an impact on me. This book, and Bender's reading, were the best from that year--and maybe the best I saw in my Mankato years. I bought her book and waited in line for her to sign it, and I must have babbled at her for a few moments because her inscription reads:
Thanks for your kind words!
Actually, I'm sure that last word is supposed to be "Bender," but it wouldn't seem so without prior knowledge. If her signature got a little slapdash after so many repetitions, it didn't matter. The story she read and her reading of it were both perfect for the occasion.
The story, An Invisible Sign of My Own, is about Mona Gray, a young woman who's been motivationally paralyzed since the age of ten, the year when her father announced that he was sick (though he showed no sign of illness) and stopped doing anything. That's when Mona started quitting everything--especially the things she excelled in. Mona's a quirky woman: she knocks on wood almost constantly, she's obsessed with numbers, and for a twentieth birthday present she buys herself an ax.
Everything about this novel works, from the fairy tale prologue to the swirl of recurring motifs and images to Mona's likeable voice and believable internal struggle. It's a story driven more by dramatic tension than by a central conflict, but every moment is enjoyable and the development of the story is unlike anything else I've ever read.
Strange that I haven't picked up a copy of anything else she's written. Maybe I'm afraid the rest of her work will disappoint me after this.