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These Things Hidden

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

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The Shape Under the Sheet

  • Apr 17, 2011
Blind in the darkness, you sense something in the room with you and reach out. There's a large, smooth flat surface, and on it something covered in a sheet. Touch here: a smooth, supple curve tapering down. Touch there: something round and hard. Touch again: four or five sticks connected at the base. All cold, so cold and still and silent.

It's only when you put the pieces together that the full impact of the secret is revealed.

In These Things Hidden, Heather Gudenkauf pulls the sheet back relentlessly, even when what's revealed is terrible to see. You know even at the beginning that there's something there, something significant, but you have only hints and impressions. With deliberate pacing and an impressive talent for shifting perspectives at the perfect moment, These Things Hidden makes for a compelling and addictive read.

The story comes at us from the perspective of four main characters. There's Allison, just released from prison and trying to repair her fractured life. Brynn, Alison's estranged sister who moved away after Alison was sent to jail. Charm, who lives in the same town as Alison's family with a dying man, her father by choice rather than blood. And Claire, owner of a local bookstore and adoptive mother to five-year-old Joshua.

These characters and their families come together in this story, lives intertwined in unexpected ways. Each character brings their own voice to the narrative, and each has their own story. More importantly, each has their own secrets to keep.

These Things Hidden is a story about secrets, similar in both theme and execution to Gudenkauf's first novel - The Weight of Silence - but executed with more finesse. Like that book, These Things Hidden uses the multiple viewpoint to drive the story and reveal long-hidden truths. Gudenkauf's growth as a writer shows here in the dialogue and the strong pacing. The characters never fail to be believable, the language is well-crafted, and the story never flags. The ending takes place over the final breathless 60 pages - once you get there, you simply can't put it down.

The magic in These Things Hidden isn't just in the story. Like all good books, the true wonder of this book lies in the journey of discovery. You start the book knowing nothing about these people and their stories. You know it might be a hard story to read, shocking at times, and indeed it is. With consummate skill, patience, and craft, Heather Gudenkauf reveals the secrets, one by one.

Take her hand and let her show you. The shape is there, waiting for you to uncover it.

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January 03, 2012
Interesting perspectives.
April 18, 2011
Excellent review! You have me really wondering about this novel. I'm adding it to my TBR list now. :)
April 18, 2011
Thanks Adrianna! Hope you like it. If you read 'The Weight of Silence' then chances are you might enjoy this too. This one shows a little more polish, though - nice to see!
April 18, 2011
I haven't read "The Weight of Silence" yet. I'm super behind with my reading. The most time I spend on it is when I'm driving (audio books). I'll let you know what I think of this one when I get around to it. :)
April 18, 2011
Please do! I'd love to hear what you think. I'm awfully behind too - I have two shelves of unread books and it always seems to stay that way, no matter how fast I read! Maybe if I stopped buying new ones...?
April 19, 2011
LOL! That's my problem too! I find them really cheap now since ebooks are the hottest new thing in terms of reading. What also ends up making me fall behind is not being fast enough with the review writing. I'm constantly trying to read and write faster. :-P I'll let you know when I have read this one too. :)
More These Things Hidden reviews
review by . February 04, 2011
   Heather Gudenkauf’s second novel deals with a difficult subject: infant murder. Told in first and third person by a quartet of female protagonists, it opens with Allison Glenn, the main protagonist who is getting out of prison after serving half of a ten-year sentence for the murder of her newborn baby. Her lawyer, Devin, escorts her to a halfway house run by pragmatic-but tender-hearted Oleta. Allison wants desperately to put the past behind her and start anew but finds obstacles …
About the reviewer
Rich Stoehr ()
Ranked #78
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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