Review: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

These Things Hidden When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls’ golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It’s Brynn–shy, quiet Brynn–who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her. But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her estranged sister. Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden” – Goodreads

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf is told from the perspective of four women: Allison, her sister Brynn, Charm, and Claire. As the story opens, Allison is just being released from prison, where she has spent the last five years. She faces the difficult task of re-entering society without any familial support; both her parents and her sister, Brynn, have disowned her. The only support she will receive will be obtained while living in a halfway house with other women who are also re-acclimating to the “real world” after life in prison. Even there, however, she is treated as a pariah by her peers due to the heinousness of her crime.

While Allison is settling in to her new home, her sister Brynn is struggling to fight her own demons. Brynn has become mostly estranged from her parents and has moved to a nearby town to live with her grandmother. After experiencing a breakdown while still living with her parents, she is on medication for depression, but it is not helping. Brynn cannot stop obsessing about the night that her life changed forever and Allison was sent to prison. She wonders constantly what could have been done differently that would have changed the way everything played out. When Allison begins attempting to make contact with Brynn after her release from prison, Brynn refuses to speak with her and the pressure Brynn is experiencing is greatly heightened.

Charm is a young nursing student who is also caring for her dying stepfather, Gus. While she attended high school with Allison and Brynn years ago, she did not know them personally. In the beginning, it is unclear what Charm’s role is in this story, but as the facts are slowly revealed, the reason for her presence becomes clear. Charm is also a loyal customer at a local bookstore owned by Claire. Claire is the adoptive mother of an adorable little boy named Joshua. Claire – and Joshua – are integral to this story as well but, again, it takes quite a while for the reasons for this to be revealed. And trust me, y’all, when the shocking reason that these four women are connected is revealed, you will be blown away.

As the story is told, each narrative ultimately takes us back to the fateful night, or days within that night, that wound up putting Allison in prison. As the tale moves on, the four women slowly travel along paths that will ultimately intersect – and soon. We will also understand the significance and history of Joshua in things as more and more of the shocking details begin to unravel. But things do not end there – oh, no. Even after all of the threads have been unraveled, there is still a huge shock to come at the very end. It was a twist that I never saw coming and it blew me away.

These Things Hidden is a captivating, shocking, and somewhat emotional book to read. I must warn you that it does involve the death of an infant and that much time is spent on these scenes. While it is tastefully done – not graphic or bloody – it still may be uncomfortable or difficult for some readers to digest. Ultimately, however, this story is a masterfully crafted work of many layers, skillfully woven together into a dramatic and heart-stopping tale of family secrets, hopelessness, redemption, and forgiveness. It is most definitely a Good Read.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries Digital Downloads

These Things Hidden: Book Trailer {2011}

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