From chaos to catharsis, Galante resurrects the traumatic high school years of four girls at Turning Winds Home for Girls who bond, comfort, and part after graduation. Now in their early thirties, the women come together to support one of the group in trouble. When Grace begs for her old friends’ help, they gather without hesitation, even though none have kept in touch since graduation. Nora, the main protagonist (the character who really carries the narrative), has remained in the same neighborhood as the home, now employed in a library by two generous old women
who dote on her but encourage Nora to explore more of the world around her. Nora, however, insists she is content; her dog, Alice Walker,
is a constant companion in a careful, constricted life, her solution to a traumatic incident years before that has made her cautious.
Through Nora’s eyes, the other three take shape: the raucous, overbearing Ozzie, their putative leader and married mother of three who swore she would never get married; Monica, a gap-toothed redhead who lives in Manhattan with her wealthy boyfriend, now completely remade into a striking, assured sophisticate; and Grace, the sensitive, budding artist and Nora’s roommate, who recently had a baby but feels unable to connect with her infant, currently in a dark emotional state. These four share common experiences, childhood neglect and comparable family histories, naming their small group “The Invisibles,” complete with secrets, rituals, and a promise to protect one another. Ironically, none has found it convenient to contact the others, perhaps inhibited by time and psychological drama of their last parting, only Nora remaining near the home.
At the first meeting on their way to Grace’s house, the women are effusive then tentative, joined in common cause as they near their destination, where they learn how difficult their friend’s life has been and how much trouble she is having adapting to new motherhood. Only the friendships with these women have the power to reach Grace in her present state, to bridge the years that have passed and renew that sense of unity that allowed them to move forward. This isn’t the first time one of them has stood at the edge of the abyss, the others there to help with a life challenge. These women created their own sense of family as teens, to atone in some measure for the losses they bear. Now they have an opportunity to do it again as adults.
Galante skillfully travels this minefield of past and present, the women gradually relaxing into familiarity and testing the bonds between them. Unexpected circumstances expand what was to have been an overnight excursion, the joyful and supportive camaraderie threatened by extenuating circumstances as the visit continues. New plans demand more commitment, initiating intimate revelations.
The friends are forced to consider one another differently, to examine whether any truth can really be shared, if forgiveness is possible and shame superfluous: “Children are to be loved and cherished. We are to be loved and cherished.” Nora’s is the most devastating secret, the most life-changing, framed in the terror of youth and left to fester when trapped in the past: “The last thing Nora wanted to feel was any more broken than she already felt.”
The burden of their secrets weigh heavily upon women determined to become more that their histories dictate, and the Invisibles are incomplete unless Nora is able to lay her past to rest and face the future with the others. The four primary characters are diverse and sympathetic, if sometimes quite idiosyncratic, each claiming the present from a broken past, not always successfully. Though emotional damage is common among them, so is the capacity for healing when love and compassion balance out the burdens of youth.