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Invisible Ellen Reader’s Guide

By Shari Shattuck

Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck


Questions and Topics for Discussion


For many of us, there comes a moment when we wish we were invisible.

For Ellen Homes, not only does she wish it . . . she actually lives it.

She spends her days quietly observing but unobserved, watching and recording in her notebooks the lives of her neighbors, coworkers, and total strangers. Overweight, socially stunted, and utterly alone, one night Ellen saves a blind young woman from being mugged.

Then everything changes.

Character-driven, poignant, and leavened with touches of humor and witty dialogue, Invisible Ellen is a remarkable novel about personal transformation, morality, the power of friendship, and the human need for connection with others.


Shari Shattuck, novelist and actress has published six novels, and appeared in over 200 stage, film and TV productions. Her forthcoming film, Scream at the Devil, is in postproduction and is due shortly for release. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in California.

  • Why do you think Temerity, of all people, is able to “see” Ellen?

  • At the start of the book, Ellen saves Temerity from being mugged. In what ways does Temerity end up saving Ellen by the end of the book?

  • What do you think compels Ellen, ever the distant observer, to help Temerity?

  • What did you think of Ellen’s notebooks and observations of those around her? She’s so withdrawn otherwise, what do you think motivates her to maintain these accounts of those around her?

  • Discuss Ellen’s invisibility. In what ways is it real?

  • Ellen isn’t the only “invisible” person in this book. Discuss the other characters who go unseen in their day-to-day lives.

  • Temerity could easily become an “invisible” person. Discuss the ways she refuses to be overlooked. Why do you think she doesn’t shrink into the background?

  • Have you ever felt invisible? Have you ever wanted to be so? Discuss experiences you’ve had where you could relate to Ellen. In what ways is being “seen” important?

  • “True friends see who you really are”: In what ways does this describe Ellen and Temerity’s relationship? In what ways does it apply to any other friendships depicted in the book?

  • Discuss the role of music in Ellen and Temerity’s relationship

  • Family is another central theme of Invisible Ellen. Discuss the families and familial relationships depicted in the book. Are they all biological?

  • Ellen has had a terrible experience with finding a family-first with her mother and then with the foster care system. In what ways does she ultimately find her family in this book?

  • Discuss Ellen’s relationship with food-especially bacon. How does it change throughout the story?

  • Social injustice is a core topic in Invisible Ellen. Most of the problems Temerity and Ellen seek to right-adoption, crime, abuse-already have official systems in place to remedy them. In what ways are systems inadequate to handle these problems? Why are Temerity and Ellen so much better at helping?

  • Temerity’s disability is part of her very unique view of the world around her. Discuss the way Temerity “sees” and experiences her surroundings. How are other characters’ views different? Do they have any similarities?
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