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Book review: Finding the hidden in "These Hidden Things" by Heather Gudenkauf

Updated: Dec 22, 2020




Title: These Things Hidden

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

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What's it about?

One moment in time. One night of your life. That's all it takes to change everything. It's a lesson that Allison, Brynn, Charm, Claire and their families learned the hard way and now they will have to live with the consequences forever.


Now, five years after that life changing night, Allison is released from prison on parole, and sent to live in a half way house to become acclimated to life outside of bars. Now Allison finds her self without support from her family and surrounded by judgement. So, when she lands a job in a bookstore near the half way house she's living, she's excited. She's even more thrilled when the owner of the bookstore (Claire) treats her like a human with value, not just a monster like so many other people. But Allison's history has a way of sneaking up on her in unexpected ways.


Brynn Glenn and her sister Allison were once close, but as they grew up, they grew apart, but when Allison needed Brynn five years ago, Brynn couldn't help but to be there for her. Little did she know that her life would never be the same since. She would never be just Brynn Glenn. She'd never stop running from the past. But no matter how hard she runs, her sister will always be her sister, her parents will always be disappointed in her and she will never forget what happened that night. Now, five years later, she's just trying to survive in life that at least resembles normal, but normal's not as easy as it sounds.


Cham's beating the odds. Her father's never been around and her mother and her don't have much of a relationship, either but that's okay. She's got Glen, her mother's ex-husband who's stepped up into the father role and has never turned back. But now, the only father and decent parent she's ever had is sick. Now she's struggling to juggle caring for the person in the world whom she loves the most and succeeding in nursing school while trying to forget the past and one of the most heart breaking moments of her life. It's not easy, but luck has been on her side for the most part....just as long as luck continues to be on her side, even with the new arrival in the small town of Iowa she lives.


And then there's Claire. She's successful with a loving marriage to a great husband, a child she's prayed for with bookstore that is doing okay for itself. She appreciates what she has and doesn't take it for granted as there was a time when she didn't think she'd ever be able to have the family she dreams of. But, appreciated does not mean absolute perfection, as Claire soon learns when her store is robbed. Now she's trying to adjust to reconsidering how her store is run as well as changes in her personal life. The universe, on the other hand, seems to think her life needs a little more complicating and fulling intends to provide it.


Favorites:

Favorite Part: I'm torn between two parts. The first one is when Claire's store is robbed. It's not that I like the part as much as it brought tears to my eyes. I think it was the first time in the book that tears were summoned. As a mother, it's heart retching with both fear and love. It goes from a dangerous moment to a very heart felt and loving moment smoothly but quickly.


The other part would be in the halfway house when Allison is doing her chores. There's this moment when Allison breaks down and is comforted by Olene (the woman who owns and runs the half way house she lives in). It's one of the first moments we get to see a truly human side of Allison. Not that she's robotic up until that point, but she's very stoic, almost hard as she's had to be in order to survive the past five years. This is the first time she really feels and allows her self to be effected by everything that's happened. And I also love the moment between Olene and Allison at this time, too.


Least Favorite Part: I can't talk about my least favorite part due to spoilers but I will say that as hard as it was to read; as emotional as it was to read, it was absolutely necessary to the store. It's such a crucial part to what happened that night and, as much as I want to blame and name call, ("You monster!" "You horrible person!") I don't feel as if I can because, well, there's so much that fed into the events of that night.


Favorite Character: I have two. The first one is Gus (Charm's step father). I think the thing that initially made him stand out to me is that he didn't have to. He didn't have to step up once Charm's mom (Reanne) divorced him. He didn't have to take on the care of her two kids and treat them as his own. He never had to agree with them coming to live with him, but he did and he loved Charm as if she were his very own daughter through blood. But, as I got to know him better, I fell in love with his strength, the way he never gave up. I loved the way he always put Charm first and never felt sorry for himself even though he was so sick. He was a giant teddy bear mascaraing as a big bad, manly fire fighter.


My other favorite was Olene. I loved the way she tired tragedy into something good but, mostly, I loved the way she was surrounded with people that some may consider the lowest of the low and she never looked at them as if she believed that for a moment. She shows genuine affection and understanding. She truly supports them and tries to help them find their way in the world. I