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A harsh truth
These Things Hidden - Heather Gudenkauf
Member Name: katyj10
These Things Hidden - Heather Gudenkauf
Date: 02/09/12, updated on 02/09/12 (13 review reads)
Advantages: Good writing
Disadvantages: Hard to read
This is a review of the 2011 book 'These things Hidden' by Heather Gudenkauf. The book is set in small town Iowa and follows Allison Glenn from her first day of release from prison. When she was 17 she was imprisoned for a terrible crime and she served five years before early release for good behaviour.
without giving away too much, Allison concealed a pregnancy from her family and is charged with the murder of her baby girl by police who find her in the river that runs behind the family home. Allison thought the baby was dead when it was born so was just trying to get rid of the evidence before her parents got home. Her sister Brynn panicked and called the police who were soon on the trail and medical evidence and the contents of the garbage confirm it is Allison's baby that is found in the river.
Five years later
Allison begins her new life in the next town from where she used to live and is housed in a half way house to help with her normalisation process. She gets a job working at the local bookstore on the recommendation of her landlady and this has some intense connections with her past life and mistakes.
Allison's parents are so shocked by what has happened, they don't want her in their lives any more, nor does her sister who now lives two hours away with her grandma. Allison feels she deserves a new start but her past still haunts her life in a huge way.
Claire and Jonathan own the local book store and have an adopted son Joshua who is all they ever wanted in their lives. Unable to have children themselves he is the most precious thing in their lives. A local student, Charm is a regular at the book store and always looks out for Josh when she calls in.
One of the "things" that really bugs me is the title of the book - 'These Things Hidden' just makes me think 'These things happen' which throwing babies in rivers - no they don't (or they shouldn't). I thought the title was weak and could have been a lot better. I did quite enjoy reading this book but had to wonder how everyone else in town knew who Allison was and what she did yet Claire knows she is employing an ex convict but she doesn't question her past. she is just glad that the government are subsidising her wage so she can have more staff in the store. If she had googled Allison's name she would have found out all she needed to know from the beginning!
Parenting is a subject which crops up frequently in the book, from Allison's brief encounter as a parent following childbirth, to Charm's rocky relationship with her mother and also the touching bonds she has with her dying stepfather Gus. Joshua couldn't wish for better parents in Claire and Jonathan who dote on his every move and take his views as a five year old very seriously. Allison's parents are total flakes even before all this happens. She works hard to maintain straight As and it's still not enough for them. Her sister Brynn doen't get a look in with her parents as they are uninterested in her non academic ambitions.
I would recommend this book as I enjoyed reading it but I think the subject of drowning one's own baby is not tackled seriously enough in the book. Fair enough, there is a prison sentence served and the issue of safe havens is covered, where newborns can be left without fear of repercussion if the parent feels unable to care for them. At the end of the book I enjoyed reading a Q&A with the author and exploring some of the issues covered in the book further. I am overawed that the author is a mother of three with a full time day job and evening classes (as a teacher) and she gets up early to write or stay up very late. Some people are like wonder woman when they achieve all this.
Summary: An OK book