Monday, 4 April 2011

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

GENRE: contemporary fiction/drama/women's fiction

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.

These Things Hidden is a very appropriate title for this novel, as the story features a tangled web of mysteries that influence lives in a dramatic way. This book is an intense, emotional read, showing how keeping mysteries and harbouring guilt can lead to a dramatic and even tragic climax.

Allison Glen used to be the perfect girl. Her parents loved her, her younger sister Brynn admired her, she was beautiful and her school life exactly was what one would hope for. It was as if this girl never had a flaw. But on one fateful night, everything changes for Allison. This perfect girl makes a mistake and a number of bad decisions lead her to getting tried for murder and locked up in prison for five years. During this time, her parents become strangers to her and her sister, Brynn, completely excludes her from her life. Because of the nature of her crime, the prisoners hate her and reject her, and once she is released and installed in a halfway house where she will learn to take care of herself, hatred and rejection follow her. All she wants is to have her normal life back and above all, for her sister to finally talk to her, but Brynn has her own issues to deal with.

Brynn, only one year younger than Allison, used to adore her big sister. As the girls grew up, they slowly grew apart, but one terrible night connected them again. Brynn cannot forgive Allison for pulling her into her problems and although no one knows Brynn was there on that night Allison committed her crime, Brynn must carry the weight of guilt and live with the mystery every single day. She is a troubled girl who wants to escape the past, but cannot. She sees it in her mind, all the time.

The novel follows the emotions of guilt and of trying to achieve redemption in a beautiful, touching and intense way. Both sides of the coin are presented, so to say, and it is shown that things are not simply black and white, but have many colours in between. It is especially important to know that things are not always how they appear to be.

When Allison finds a job in a bookstore, owned by Claire, she takes one look at Claire’s five-year-old son Joshua and instantly knows who he is. This little boy is at the core of Allison’s mystery and with Allison’s discovery of his whereabouts, the drama begins to prepare for its climax. The past strikes back and reveals truly unexpected truths about the characters in the novel.

The novel explores that an ex-convict is only a person with their own complexities and is not necessarily bad. As I’ve said, there are colours besides black and white. It also touches on the important subject of safe haven laws that were ‘enacted to prevent infant abandonment and infanticide.’ (SOURCE) These are all important subjects are truly well and believably presented in the novel.

All in all, this is a truly enjoyable and emotionally gripping read that is perfect for fans of dramas and women’s fiction. Lovers of Jodi Picoult will surely appreciate this book.

I would like to thank Katie McKelliget at MIRA Books for sending me a copy of this novel for review!

THIS MISS RATES: / (4.5 stars)


Jo K said...

This seems like a very unpredictable story. I like it when things turn out different from what one would expect and it's good to see the shades of grey between black and white. You got me interested in this book! Great review!

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

This looks like something I might like; I usually like Picoult's novels and sister-sister relationships are also a favorite of mine. I will have to keep an eye out for it!

Blodeuedd said...

I am so curious now, what did happen to land her in jail? Who is that boy? Oh the questions

Jan von Harz said...

Wow this sound like a very intense read, and from your awesome review has me wanting to find out more. Thanks

Unknown said...

This sounds like it explores such powerful themes. A very thorough and detailed review as always.

Kristina said...

Wow! This book looks really good! Great review! I think I am going to check it out!

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