When I Was Invisible By Dorothy Koomson
In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?
In Dorothy’s latest book, we meet two girls who both have the same names only with different spellings, Veronica Harper and Veronika Harper. To avoid confusion, Veronika is known as Nika whilst Veronica is known as Roni. They meet in primary school and sharing the same name plus their passion for ballet become inseparable, but life gets in the way of the friendship and two girls are pulled apart both moving in opposite directions and both living lives that they never dreamt off.
The story is written in both past and present tense and is seen through the narrative of two women, now grown up and trying to rebuild their lives from the secrets that they both ran from.
Running from her past Nika, is determined to get her life in order. Having left an abusive and public relationship and with no money, her only option is live on the streets, with a new identity and scrapes together some money to finally invest in setting up a new life for herself. But her journey isn’t an easy one, meeting many nasty characters along the way, Nika becomes a strong woman, that other unfortunate people come to looking for help and support. As she finally begins to get her life together, her past comes back to haunt her and new friendships begin to get in the way.
Whilst Nika is roaming the street, Roni has given her life to God and became a nun. Rather take a vow of silence than speak of what happened to her as a child, Roni has conflicted emotions about the path she decided to take and returns home, where she is greeted with a less than warm welcome. With an outspoken and pass remarkable uncle and a temperamental mother, she wonders what to do with her life and wonders about Nika, her once best friend.
As the story progresses, we meet two very strong and independent women who each have been dealt difficult and traumatising cards in life, but they share a secret, a secret that should have brought them together during a hard time but instead pulled them apart and made them into harder people who are wary of trusting people.
Like Dorothy’s previous books, she touches on serious issues of child and sexual abuse as well as homelessness, but she handles the topics with such sensitivity and compassion. Her books are gritty page turners, filled with relatable and engaging characters, that you create a bond with. An emotional and powerful story about friendship and new beginnings, ‘When I Was Invisible’ is a powerful and thought provoking book.
You can buy When I Was Invisible from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.