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Reviewed by Erin McKibbin

“Family Secrets…Secrets wound…Maybe learning the truth is the salve I need…Salve is an ointment. An ointment, a balm. A balm is an…unction. An unction is an anointing. An anointing…is a blessing. A blessing, a sanctification. To sanctify is to purify… Salve. Salvation.” (Excerpt from Painting the Invisible Man by Rita Schiano)

Rita Schiano’s novel, Painting the Invisible Man, is a one woman voyage in finding salvation from a family secret that has controlled every aspect of her life for 20 years. The journey begins with a frustrated Italian American writer named Anne Matteo who uses a novel by Amy Tan (author of The Joy Luck Club) as a talisman in the hopes of escaping the writer’s block that has plagued her for almost a decade. While researching the online archives of The Providence Journal (her hometown newspaper), Anne mistakenly purchases 10 copies of the same article with a slip of a key. She attempts to fix this typo but is thwarted by an outdated computer that freezes and an internet provider who keeps dropping her connection. Anne then decides to make the most of her error by running searches on family and friend names for the fun of it.

Fun is not what she finds.

Suddenly, Anne is face to face with the memories of her father’s murder 20 years ago, the family trauma that preceded the event and the suffering that followed. Blindsided by the past that she had been avoiding, Anne realizes that she will never be whole until she sees this exploration of her past through to the end. She puts her writing on hold and jumps into the abyss with the help of her best friend and her cousin…and the woman who eventually becomes her soul mate.

Rita Schiano creates a cast of multifaceted characters who are the backdrop to this first person tale of self discovery. Her liberal use of flashbacks create a sense of being “in Anne’s head” and living Anne’s life. In Painting the Invisible Man, Rita touches upon families, grief, loss, sexuality, and “coming of age”…all different parts of the human experience.

Check out a YouTube interview with Rita Schiano here

Erin fell in love with the written word as a small child and subsequently spent most of her life happily devouring literature.  She works as a freelance news, marketing, and technical writer.  Erin lives just outside of Cleveland, Ohio with her children and grandchildren.