Invis­i­ble As Air

  • Review
By – September 2, 2019

Sylvie Snow is the hero­ine of Zoe Fishman’s lat­est nov­el and the face of the ongo­ing opi­oid cri­sis in the Unit­ed States. A com­pli­cat­ed and mul­ti­fac­eted issue that has been destroy­ing so many fam­i­lies and lives, is in fact so dan­ger­ous because, like the title of the nov­el, it is Invis­i­ble as Air.

At the onset Sylvie is a moth­er and wife, who has been con­sumed by grief since the still birth of her daugh­ter three years ago. She keeps up appear­ances at work and stays involved in her son’s upcom­ing Bar Mitz­vah. Yet, at home every­day things make Sylvie frus­trat­ed and resent­ful. On the anniver­sary of Delilah’s death, almost in antic­i­pa­tion of pain and annoy­ance, Sylvie takes one of her hus­band, Paul’s, pre­scrip­tion pain killers from his recent bro­ken ankle. As a result of the drug, Sylvie finds her­self able to cope with her husband’s indel­i­cate attempts to com­fort her or to talk about their tragedy. And after three years of avoid­ing any and all mem­o­ries of Delilah, she finds her­self light­ing a Yahrzeit can­dle in mem­o­ry of her. It is not long until a pill a day stops being a crutch and instead becomes a necessity.

Sylvie remains in denial long after her addic­tion starts med­dling with her life. By not sug­ar coat­ing Sylvie’s addic­tion and the things it makes her do, the author cre­ates a ter­ri­fy­ing­ly real­is­tic por­trait of how this could hap­pen even to a mid­dle class, sub­ur­ban mom. It is evi­dent that Sylvie has access to sup­port, ther­a­py, doc­tors, and sim­ply knows bet­ter than to take painkillers; yet she still falls vic­tim to addiction.

As Sylvie bat­tles her demons, Paul is deal­ing with an array of his own issues. Fill­ing their base­ment with exer­cise equip­ment as a cop­ing mech­a­nism for the void in his life, Paul has run up quite a debt and has caused anoth­er rift between him and Sylvie.

Through­out the nov­el, their son, Ted­dy is prepar­ing for his Bar Mitz­vah, a rite of pas­sage to becom­ing a man. But Ted­dy finds adult­hood thrust upon him when he stum­bles onto his par­ents’ dark­est secrets. Although a mature and respon­si­ble for his age, Ted­dy is forced to make dif­fi­cult deci­sion before he feels ready for it. At a young age, he had to wit­ness death and how it changed his fam­i­ly. Yet, his love for his flawed par­ents makes them redeemable char­ac­ters. As Ted­dy com­pletes his Mitz­vah project, he feels con­nect­ed to his her­itage and his reli­gion like nev­er before. Ted­dy val­i­dates that his past can in fact make him a wis­er, stronger adult.

Fishman’s effec­tive sto­ry­telling demon­strates the strength and also the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of fam­i­ly. Apart, Sylvie, Paul, and Ted­dy were unrav­el­ing each in his or her own way. Yet, when final­ly forced to come togeth­er on the same island where tragedy struck years pri­or, the Snow fam­i­ly real­izes that their shared trau­ma is what will keep their fam­i­ly afloat.

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