Heather Gudenkauf, These Things Hidden

Posted April 20, 2012 by Kathy Davie in

These Things HiddenThese Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A haunting story about love and its lack.

My Take
Oh, wow. Gudenkauf is amazing. And this is her debut novel…!??!! She teases and tantalizes. Never giving quite enough information to explain what’s happened. Why things occurred as they did. But slowly building the story from the outside in. Very dramatic in a subtle way.

That said, how could such an intelligent girl be so incredibly STUPID!?? No, no, I realize Allison was influenced by her parents. Their superficial needs. Their coldness. Their requirement to have a perfect child. If ever anyone needed to have undergone some sort of licensing to have children… If the Glenns had been more concerned with their children’s happiness, so many lives could have been better. I don’t understand how her father could have been the way he is. His mother is certainly a warm and caring person. Gudenkauf uses Sophie to point up the difference between a normal loving family and Charm’s mother, and I hold the Glenns under the same lens.

As decent as Allison appears initially, you also notice the same coldness in her. What else can be expected when her role models were ice cubes?

Then compare Allison and Brynn’s upbringing with Joshua’s…you can’t help but notice the differences. Did the Glenns have children by accident? What was their plan? We know it wasn’t for love. When you read of how much Jonathan and Claire adore Joshua, the way their lives revolve around him. You can’t help but draw the comparison. If the Glenns had paid any attention, the dramas would have been so much less, possibly never even happening. Just…too sad. Such a waste.

The Story
It’s different. Being on the outside after having been locked up for the past five years. In prison, everything is decided for you. You have no responsibilities but to do what you are told. Now, Allison must find a job, build her life anew. Try to get her younger sister to see her, speak to her. Forgive her. Her parents want nothing to do with her. They’ve shut her out of their perfect lives. Even Brynn has fled home and moved in with their grandmother.

That night changed everyone’s lives. Taunting us with the bits and pieces of enlightenment that allow the baggage of their lives to open slowly, slowly. Allison will never escape the hatred people feel toward her. Brynn tries to escape the stigma of being known to be related even as she spirals downward in her mind. Their parents wanted perfect children and Allison destroyed their dream. Their grandmother is caught between not wanting to favor one over the other.

Others are affected as well. Charm is caring for her beloved stepfather. Cancer. Her mother is off and twisting dramas to feel more important even as she flaunts her current live-in lover. Charm and Gus, too, have a five-year-old secret. One that Charm visits as she can. Jonathan and Claire are the only happy ones as they go about fulfilling their dreams. The bookstore is doing well and their young son is about to start school.

It’s as these lives all come together in the same place that truth is revealed and a greater tragedy occurs. A clearing if you will.

The Characters
Allison Glenn is getting paroled from prison. No longer the golden girl of Linden Hills. It’s only been five years and she’s almost 22-years-old now. Devin Kineally is Allison’s lawyer and the only rock she has to lean on. Her parents don’t want her in their home so Devin is taking her to a group home. Brynn Glenn has never gotten over the trauma of that night. Suicide. Pills. She’s finally getting her life back on track training animals as therapy pets.

Christopher is a spoiled boy. Twenty-two-years-old and a selfish child; it is doubtful he’ll ever grow up. Charm is still living at home with her stepfather Gus while she attends nursing school. It’s best this way for Gus would never want to go to a nursing home while he waits for death. Jane is the visiting home nurse who checks on Gus’ condition and ensures that he is taken care of and has enough to eat. Reanne Tullia is the mother who needs to be the center of attention, always looking for more, for exciting. She always leaves first. Binks may be a keeper, however. He’s certainly more decent than Reanne.

Olene started Gertrude House for girls newly released from jail. Her own daughter might have survived her release from jail if there had been such an option available to her. The other residents include Tabatha, Bea, and Flora with her son Manalo.

Jonathan and Claire Kelby are living their dream. Jonathan renovated the dressmaker’s shop with their son Joshua’s help into a bookstore which Claire runs while Jonathan builds. Truman is the family dog.

The Cover
The cover is the greens of nature with a child in capris and sneakers standing at the edge of the water gazing at his/her reflection. A lovely way to keep These Things Hidden just as the truth is hidden in this story.

View all my reviews


Leave a Reply