Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review: These Things Hidden

Crossover: Adult-->Teen

I picked up Heather Gudenkauf's These Things Hidden on the recommendation of my mother.  Her description of the book as a mystery set in Iowa intrigued me.  Lots of "literary fiction" has been set in Iowa, but very little mystery.  Let's face it, Iowa isn't all that mysterious.

Unless you're a 21-year-old golden girl being released from prison to a halfway house in Linden Falls. (Cedar Falls?)  Allison Glenn narrates the first chapter of These Things Hidden as her lawyer takes her from prison to her new home.  We experience Allison's fear and insecurity as it becomes clear that her parents and little sister Brynn have no interest in talking to her.  Allison's crime, despite the fact that she has served only 5 years of a 10-year sentence, was just that terrible.  Allison, the reader learns, hid a pregnancy and threw her newborn baby into the river in an attempt to cover up her crime.

Four women, the youngest being Brynn, narrate These Things Hidden and the story unfolds in real time.  In addition to Brynn and Allison, two other residents of the Linden Falls area take part in the story--Claire, a woman in her early forties and bookstore owner, and Charm, a young woman caring for her dying stepfather and a frequent visitor to Claire's bookstore.  Children play an important role in the novel as Claire has an adopted son, Joshua, who was the first beneficiary of the Safe Haven law enacted in Iowa after Allison killed her baby.

These Things Hidden will appeal to teen readers; Perfectionism and "ruining your life" with one mistake play an important role in the novel.  These Things Hidden is also truly suspenseful.  Just when I thought I had the story all figured out, an aspect of the relationships between the four narrators surprised me.  I also appreciated that These Things Hidden doesn't judge its characters, doesn't put them to some ultimate moral test.   Allison Glenn did kill her baby after a pregnancy she hid from her family and peers. The reader cares about her progress, nonetheless.

These Things Hidden is highly recommended for readers ages 14 and up.
My copy of These Things Hidden was purchased as an e-book, a format I am becoming more and more fond of for many reasons--environmental and convenience (I read These Things Hidden during a fourth-grade basketball tournament) first among them.
And...These Things Hidden is another entry for Travis's Cover Curiosity: Cons-istantly Covered post!