Now You See Her

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Recognition of the onset of middle age can come at any time and in any form. For Kiki Shaw, nearing forty years of age, it comes in a strange manner. While looking at her foot one day, she sees her cat walk through it. Her mirror image becomes less dependable, and people at work cannot find her while she sits at her desk. She is disappearing, bit by bit, as the world swallows her identity as an individual and she is forgotten by friends and coworkers. She thinks it must be tied to middle age, but cannot recall it happening to others.

Kiki’s employment as a list compiler for an unnamed but easily recognizable television game show, in which answers are given and the contestant supplies the question, leads to the occupational hazard of putting all of her experiences into categories. She calls her friends, for example, and asks what they want most in life, then puts the answers into ranked order.

Collier Grey, one of those friends, is having an affair with Gordon, a married man. Gordon’s wife, Les, suspects the infidelity, but refuses to confront the issue. Kiki is the link in the circle of friendships, but no one asks the questions because the truth is too painful to know.

In this introspective look at life, Whitney Otto voices thoughts that plague many women. Kiki’s disappearance can be seen metaphorically as what happens to women as they take on other people’s attributes: a husband’s wife, a parent’s daughter, a child’s mother. The essential worth of the individual must be acknowledged, and the importance of her own ideas recognized, in order not to disappear.