Chuck Palahniuk

Invisible Monsters

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Invisible Monsters Summary

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Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk is a comic novel about a former model. Shannon McFarland’s modeling career ends suddenly after she is disfigured by a gunshot wound. Shannon’s jaw gets shot off, leaving her severely disfigured. The accident changes Shannon’s life forever and forces her to rethink her identity. She loses her career and her boyfriend. Instead of being a gorgeous beauty, she becomes invisible to those around her.

The novel, which is full of surprising plot turns, is told in a non-linear sequence of memories. To further the confusion, several of the characters in the book go by different identities throughout the course of the novel.

The novel begins on Evie Cottrell’s wedding day. Evie, a fashion model, used to be Shannon’s best friend. We later learn that Evie is a transgender who transitioned at a young age. Evie’s house is on fire and burning to the ground.

In the hospital, Shannon meets Brandy Alexander. They are both in speech therapy. Brandy gives Shannon her various names. Brandy is a flamboyant transgender woman who goes by many names.

At first, Shannon hopes to resume modeling as a hand or foot model. But she is not successful. She does not know what she will do when released from the hospital. Brandy helps Shannon adjust to her new life by advising her that her past does not have to define her future. The newly disfigured Shannon is encouraged by Brandy to change lifestyles and to hide her disfigurement by using a veil. Brandy gives Shannon her first new name, Daisy St. Patience.

Shannon started modeling school as a means to get attention. Growing up on a farm, she felt ignored by her parents who paid more attention to her older brother, Shane. At first, Shane receives more attention than Shannon because he disappoints his parents by being gay. This is discovered when a routine test for strep throat reveals that Shane has gonorrhea. Shane’s parents kick him out of the house. Later, the family learns that Shane has died of AIDS. Shane’s parents become ardent supporters of the gay rights movement. Even though he is dead, Shannon feels that her brother Shane still receives more attention from her parents than she does.

In modeling school, Shannon becomes best friends with Evelyn “Evie” Cottrell. Evie has an affair with Shannon’s boyfriend, Manus Kelley, who is a policeman.

After Shannon’s accident, Evie begs her to come live with her, and then immediately leaves her alone to travel to Cancun for a modeling job. On Shannon’s first night in Evie’s home, her ex-fiancé, Manus Kelley, breaks into the home bearing a huge kitchen knife ready to kill her. Shannon learns of the affair between Evie and Manus. Manus claims that Evie shot her while Evie claims that Manus shot her. In reality, we later learn that Shannon shot herself.

To protect herself, Shannon locks Manus in the closet. She cannot call for help due to her disfigured jaw. Instead, she sets the house on fire. After drugging Manus, she locks him in the trunk of his car and then steals the car. With nowhere to turn, Shannon goes to Brandy Alexander’s hotel room fearful that she will be arrested for arson.

At Brandy’s she meets three drag queens, the Rhea sisters, who are funding Brandy’s operations. In a plot twist, we learn that Brandy Alexander is actually her brother, Shane. Through a series of surgeries, Shane is trying to look like his sister, Shannon. Shane tricked their parents into thinking he died of aids to get back at them for throwing him out of the house. Brandy is trying to find his sister. Due to Shannon’s disfigurement, Brandy does not realize Shannon. She does not reveal her identity. Shannon remains jealous of Shane for stealing her parents’ attention, but she is desperate.

Shannon, now called Daisy, and Brandy go off on a cross-country road trip in search of Brandy’s sister. Brandy has no idea his sister is in the car with him. As they travel, they steal drugs to take or to sell to fund their travels. During their journey, Shannon learns that Brandy was sexually abused by a policeman, Manus. Brandy reveals that she is not actually transgender. Brandy takes on the identity of a woman to change his appearance so that others won’t be able to control him.

Manus is also with them on the trip. Shannon slowly poisons Manus with artificial female hormones. She wants to get back at Evie by getting Evie to give her the insurance money for her burned down house. Shannon’s plan works. Evie sends the money along with threats that she will kill Shannon if they ever see each other again.

Shannon also wants to get back at her brother. Brandy looks a lot like Shannon before her disfigurement. Shannon concocts a meeting between Evie and Brandy at Evie’s wedding. Evie shoots Brandy. At first, Shannon feels guilt and regret. But then she learns that Brandy and Evie know each other and faked the shooting.

In Brandy’s hospital room, she realizes that she loves her brother and wants him to have the life he wants. Shannon decides to disappear and to give her identity to her brother. She gives him her purse with all her identification cards. Shannon leaves the hospital ready to start a new life.