Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Review: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

Photo taken from Goodreads

Book Info

Title:  These Things Hidden
Author:  Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher:  Mira 
Language: English
Format: Paperback
Pages:  352 pages
ISBN - 13:  9780778328797
ASIN:  0778328791


From Goodreads: 
"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."

Have you ever read a book that had as much stories within a story than this book?  I for one, am very fascinated with how Heather Gudenkauf was able to pull off such a stunt in this book, This Things Hidden. 

The story begins with Allison as she was being released from prison and transferred to a halfway house.  She wanted to get in touch with her sister, Brynn, after years of separation.  They share a horrible secret between them that also affects the lives of two other women and one little boy:  Charm, a regular customer of Bookends - a bookstore that Claire owns - appears to be much more than a customer as it was revealed that she knows about Claire and her family a lot more than anyone thinks.  Claire, on the other hand, has adopted Joshua after she and her husband had learned that they would not be able to have any children and the first traumatic experience they had at foster care for a young girl.

A lot of story lines right there, right?  But believe me, it never gets confusing, not one bit!  Although there were some details there that would make you wonder why or how, but once everything comes full circle, you understand that in this book, everything is significant and has a purpose.  It is very methodical, the way this book was written, but at the same time, the prose is very imaginative and lyrical, and even has a sort of surreal quality the way most events were described.  The story shifts from various points of view:  Allison's and Brynn's - both told in first-person narrative, and then there are Charm's and Claire's both narrated by a third person.  This style actually gives you the idea that this story, though it revolves around four women, is mainly a story of two sisters who has years of secrets between them that would affect two other women's lives.  It was like the 'ripple effect,' although in this novel, there is not only one object that was thrown into the water to create a ripple, but two objects one at a time, creating ripples of their own, and with the first object's ripple causing another ripple from the second object's ripples that creates two other ripples.

Between the two sisters, I think I like Allison more.  No offense to Brynn - who has always resented the fact that her older sister always seemed better than her though she would not admit it - but Allison was able to hold her own in most situations and seemed genuinely to love her sister, although growing up they seemed to have a rough patch as she and her sister began to have different interests and sets of friends.  Brynn, on the other hand, seemed unable to get past the fact that Allison has already started growing up and growing out of their 'childish sisterhood.'  She seemed unable to grow up and when her sister genuinely asks for her help, she seemed to respond not out of love, but out of spite that finally, her seemingly-perfect older sister does not appear perfect at all and was also vulnerable to human intervention.  As with their book relationship, I was drawn more to Allison than Brynn.  The way their characters were created was so detailed but not over-documented that you only learn about them by reading the book.  No.  You read about them and you also form your own conclusions from what you have read as to why they act the way they do.  The same goes for the other characters who were also very passionately written, no matter how big or small a role they would play in this novel. 

I have always been curious about serious issues like teenage pregnancies, mental illness, and mother and child relationships and this book rolled all those into its pages and created an emotional, very well-thought out masterpiece that I am sure many readers would find themselves drawn into, even at times shedding tears not just for what goes on in this book, but also for how good this book turned out to be.

(Again, thank you so much Ash for sending me this book!  If any of you would like to be part of the Random Acts of Kindness event, head on over to Booksoulmates' blog to join.)

If you have any questions on this particular rating, please refer to my ratings system here.


All opinions expressed in this book review are my own and not influenced by any party in any way.

Please contact me for questions, comments, and suggestions.  


  1. I think I saw this book a while ago.. but your review makes me want to read it. I love stories within a story. And secrets...

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! I haven't gotten to it yet but your review definitely makes me want to get to it asap.

  3. I haven't read this one, but it does sound like a good read.

    Marlene Detierro (Austin SEO)


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