By: Heather Gudenkauf
Published by: Mira
Publication Date: January 18, 2011
Recommended by: Reading Without Restraint
I received this e-book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It's Brynn—shy, quiet Brynn—who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her.
But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her estranged sister.
Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden.All I can say is wow...
These Things Hidden starts off with Allison's story. After 5 years in prison, she is being released early and getting sent to live in a halfway house for six months. We don't find out right away what she was incarcerated for and this works out really well because we have a chance to like her and feel sympathy for her before finding out the truly awful (and I mean AWFUL) thing she was arrested for. We also meet her sister Brynn, a young woman named Charm and a local bookshop owner and adoptive mom, Claire. The story is told alternately between their points of view, however it is not in the least confusing as each woman's story and the way their lives intertwine is fascinating and compelling. Every time I thought I had the connections all figured out, the author was only a page or so away from revealing what I thought I had so brilliantly surmised, leaving me to realize Gudenkauf was in control of the story every step of the way and only allowing me to figure things out when she wanted me to. By telling the story from each woman's point of view, I found I had sympathy for all the characters. I love when an author is able to do that and doesn't just make everything black and white. People are multidimensional and characters should be too. There was no clear cut "good guy bad guy" scenario here. Instead, we are forced to think about what makes a good person do bad things.
The theme of what makes a person a parent was also explored. Sometimes it's not just the biology, but rather the heart and the feelings that make you family. Many different types of relationships are represented in These Things Hidden... biological parents, sisters, adoptive and foster parents, step-parents and friends.
With a compelling and thoughtful plot, fleshed out characters that make you care, and a mystery that keeps you guessing until the climax, These Things Hidden has earned a place at the top of my "You Gotta Read This!" list.
Heather Gudenkauf is also the author of The Weight of Silence, which I just ordered.
Gudenkauf's tightly plotted debut packs a lot of unsavory doings into a few unfortunate summer days in Willow Creek, Iowa. Seven-year-old Calli Clark hasn't spoken a word in the three years since a particularly nasty run-in with her violent, wife-beating father, Griff. During a bender, Griff suddenly decides to haul his mute daughter into the nearby forest, where they get lost. At the same time, Calli's best friend Petra goes missing, and a manhunt is launched, led by deputy sheriff Loras Louis, who still carries a torch for Calli's mother. Gudenkauf moves the story forward at a fast clip and is adept at building tension. There's a particular darkness to her heartland, rife as it is with predators and the walking wounded, and her unsentimental take on the milieu manages to find some hope without being maudlin.
Visit the author's website here. If you do a "real-life" bookclub, she has some excellent ideas and discussion questions for her books.