Now I See You

  • Nicole C. Kear
  • St. Martin’s Press
  • 288 pp.

Facing impending blindness, the author hides the disease from those closest to her and ends up just fooling herself.

Chock full of satire and irreverence, Now I See You could easily be titled “Bridget Jones Goes Blind.” Diagnosed with an incurable eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa (RP), at 19, Kear describes her initial reaction as a transition from serious drama student to promiscuous traveler. Or as she says, “just tarting up, plain and simple.”

Nicole Kear has a powerful story to tell, and she tells it in a way that may surprise some readers. Rife with 21st-century TMI, certain anecdotes (vomiting, bodily fluids, etc) made me cringe, though I’m sure Kear’s Gen X peers and millennial readers wouldn’t bat an eye at the graphic descriptions. But in contrast to this willingness to disclose, in the beginning, Kear is reluctant to be open with friends and colleagues about her disease. Not wanting to be the object of pity, she hides her progressive vision loss and manages to fool herself, as well.

Later, an older and wiser Kear dissects the intense challenges of parenting two young children, while still hiding her impending blindness from most of her friends. Consequently, she doesn’t receive the help and support that might have been provided to her as she navigates the everyday dangers of children and city life. Readers may find themselves cheering for her to “come out.” It’s as if we are watching a thriller — willing the heroine to scream now to protect herself from some impending doom.

Throughout, Kear’s emotional intensity vacillates between a self-imposed agony for keeping her secret, and a sharp, funny, self-deprecation for her dilemma. As I read the trials she endures to cover up her limited vision, I wondered how much of her reluctance was a result of our times and the relentless quest to have it all. Having a perfect career, house, husband, and kids are made more challenging when grappling with real physical danger. And, as she points out, being almost blind makes it extremely difficult to wear anything but sensible shoes.

Kear tells her story with vivid details and dialogue. Unwilling to begin using a cane for reasons that are part vanity and part denial, Kear notes that a stroller can pretty much serve the same purpose of alerting the visually impaired to an approaching obstacle or curb. But relying upon her children as support can only go so far. In contrast, her account of her losing sight of her daughter at the playground is chilling and sets her on a determined path to openness.

The book’s strength lies in Kear’s honest reflection on denial. She understands that, or at least in the process of writing the book, she comes to understand it. We have much to learn from the acuity of her perceptions. Her writing is raw, and her style made-for-television current. This presumably intentional approach will engage readers who might otherwise be turned off by a memoir about blindness.

RP is a rare disease which results in the gradual diminution of sight over many years, with vision reduced to a tunnel and then to a pinpoint. Kear’s story is at once endearing, troubling, and redemptive. I will be interested to read whatever subsequent book Kear may write as her children grow up. Her keen insights will undoubtedly help to penetrate the haze of parenting and modern life.

Robin Talbert grew up in a cotton mill town in the foothills of Western North Carolina. She is nonprofit consultant whose career has focused on social and economic justice and gender equity.

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