on 20 September 2012
The curse of the Kindle sample strikes again and I am suckered into buying a book on the strength of the first few pages - only to find the writing goes downhill from there. As another reviewer mentioned the whole premise of the book is flawed and myself I doubt in the circumstances Alison would have done any jail time at all - but I told myself that perhaps things are different in the US and I was interested in how she would handle her release from prison and rekindle relations with her parents and sister.
Unfortunately the book hardly deals with that at all - she is released to a halfway house full of unconvincing stereotypes and her parents/sister cut her out of their lives. She starts working for Claire, bookshop owner who has a young son - clearly this is in some way related to her past life in ways we can only guess (none of my guesses were as ridiculous as the reality though). I found it hard enough to swallow the coincidence that brought them together let alone the fact that Claire - having been the victim of violent robbery decides to employ an ex-con who has just gotten out of prison - because it is cheaper ??? (Personally if I was employing a girl who had just gotten out of prison and was going to spend time with my precious son I wouldn't be satisfied by knowing she had committed a 'serious' crime I would want to know exactly what she did!).
As the novel progresses, the plot developments become increasingly hard to swallow as is the cold uncaring behaviour of Alison's parents and Charm's awful mother.
Brynn, Alison's sister is the best character in the novel and I wish the author had focused more on the relationship between the two sisters and the secret they shared, rather than continually introducing more sensational plot twists (the last one I predicted even from reading the Kindle sample).
By the end I had lost interest especially as the ending seemed so predictable. I wish the author had just stuck to the original idea and focused on developing the characters - virtually everyone but Alison/Brynn and Josh is a cardboard cutout - instead of adding a completely implausible twist (the whole Josh storyline) - I was already struggling to accept the hefty prison sentence without being clobbered with even more twists which made the whole thing just seem implausible and silly.
This is the only book by this author I have read, though if what the back cover declares "Fans of Jodi Picoult will love this" were true I should in theory be awarding this 5 stars. Sadly though, this book didn't really work for me for a few reasons.
The novel has an interesting premise, Allison, a young woman is released from prison following a terrible crime she has committed, having spent 5 years in prison being the model inmate she is to go to a halfway house, where she can come to terms with her feelings and start to make a new life. In the town we also meet Claire and Jonathan who have struggled with their own infertility but now devote themselves to their adopted son Joshua, and Charm and her fractured family who lives with Gus who is slowly dying of lung cancer, and Allison's sister Brynn who is haunted by the night that lead to her sister's imprisonment. If the plot seems heavy with difficult topics, it is, as the book progresses we will find out what connects what seem to be a set of disparate characters.
The difficulty of the subject matter was not what I struggled with in terms of liking this book. Though it was well written, for some reason I never really warmed to the characters even when it felt like I should have done. Something about them, but more importantly about the suspension of belief required to make the plot work just didn't cut it for me and I didn't find the ending very satisfactory either. I didn't really ever fully believe in the setting and it's not a book that will stay with me or that I will read again I don't think. Slightly disappointing.
For me, this beat HG's debut novel hands down... And I really enjoyed that one!
Narrated by all the central characters in turn (a style I love as it often lends itself to superb characterisation), this is a tale of murder, guilt, relationships and, ultimately, secrets...
Allison is released from prison following an horrendous crime commited when she was just 17 and is desperate to make amends with the family that abandoned her following her conviction. A twisty, fast paced read, I was hooked from the first chapter and read it in two days!
HG writes with flair and grace while at the same time remaining utterly human in her observations. 'These Things Hidden' (and there's a fair few surprises...) comes highly recommended. For me, HG is certainly riding high amongst this genre...
on 20 May 2015
Interesting premise, but really weak execution, with a lot of implausible moments. The book is narrated by four characters - Allison, Brynn, Claire and Charm - and to be honest it really doesn't need to be. Charm, although my favourite character, did not need to have her story told in a separate narrative. It's also a confusing device, as for some reason Allison and Brynn tell their story in first person, whereas the other two women's sections are in third. Why? It's furthermore confusing because Claire and Charm are introduced about eight sections in, and it's not clear for sometime how they relate to the story - in another book this might be intriguing, here it was just annoying.
The book could have done with being longer. It ends abruptly - Claire for instance doesn't get a final section, which feels wrong. There were also areas that really needed to be developed more. Like Allison and Christopher's relationship, which was - and came across as - a plot device. Why did she go for him when she previously never looked at boys? What made him special? Christopher was a big unknown in the book and could have done with appearing more prominently in flashbacks, both Allison's and Charm's, to give contrasting points of view.
This novel does have plot twists I didn't see coming but only because some of them, frankly, were so stupid! Other stupid things were Claire's decision - after having just had her bookstore raided - to employ an ex-con. Yes, that makes so much sense! It was also never explained why she turned down other ex-cons but took on Allison. I also found Brynn's actions at the end implausible as they hadn't been built up at all. Also, why was her grandmother so nice and the parents so awful?
I took a decision midway through the book to finish it rather than stop. I'm not sure if I should have bothered!
I galloped throught this book, unwilling and unable to put it down. I read the authors debut novel, The Weight of Silence, last year and enjoyed it enough to want to get my mitts on any subsequent books published by the same author. I enjoyed this one more - much more.
The story is told from the perspective of four different women. Allison Glenn has just been released from jail for a shocking crime committed when she was a teenager, despite her being the school golden girl; great at sports, grade A student and pretty to boot. Brynn is Allison's sister (younger by just one year) and the two sisters haven't spoken since Allison was sent to prison, despite Allison's relentless attempts. Between them, Allison and Brynn narrate the story of what happened to bring them to where they are today. Two other women also contribute their side of the story - Claire owns a bookshop in the same town that the sisters are from and has a husband and adopted child and Charm is training to be a nurse and caring for her dying step-father and between the four of them they dip in and out of the past to help us piece together what happened. The way that the stories are linked become apparant as the book progresses but I don't want to give too much away as books like this are much more powerful if you don't know what's coming - and, trust me, there is a twist at the end of the book that I did not see coming and made me shout "No!" out loud.
Great narrative drive, plenty of cliff-hanging moments and a shocking central plot line made this book a winner for me. Highly recommended.
Having read The Weight of Silence (MIRA) which I thought showed great promise I was keen to read Heather Gudenkauf's next book.
I enjoyed this book much more, it starts with Allison aged 21 being released from prison to a half-way house following the
heinous crime she committed at the age of 16. Each chapter is narrated from a different character which gives the reader a different perspective as the story unfolds. The pace is fast and I certainly wanted to know whether my thoughts about what happened on the night in question were right or not.
Although this book is similar to Jodi Picoult's in that they deal with the big issues of life which underpin the story, that of relationships, in this case mainly between two sisters and their parents. This book cared about the outcome for all the main characters.
on 26 May 2016
This is another tremendous story by this author. The third I've read and the first 2 I gave 5 stars but if there were halves I'd drop this one half down to mistakes and only went with the 5 again because as far as I can make out this was her first book. If not for that it would definitely be a 4.
Need was used in place of needed, naval instead of navel (!!) This sentence-"With a kick perfected my during my second year", Jonathan was used at one point instead of Joshua...then this sentence dropped a word-"Where do think those bad guys are" ? This was also wrong-"Reanne's says petulantly". Then speechmarks were dropped and I was beginning to sigh.....loudly. It really distracts me altogether when I keep coming across them.....AND in paid-for books, too !!! I expect better presentation.
There were also a LOT of acknowledgements at the beginning and a bit too much 'gumph' at the back meaning it ended at 93% !!
I thought the girls' parents in this one were appalling people, I must say !! The best examples of parenting in the whole tale were by non-blood relatives !! My favourite character was probably Gus, a sweet old gent.
I loved the story of Beautiful Jim Key-that was quite fascinating. I also enjoyed a couple of sweet little phrases she wrote. If this had been my first by the author, though, I may not have read another based on the lack of proper editing. She's lucky she can weave such intriguing stories !
Overnight brilliant student Allison Glenn became a pariah, the crime so appalling even hardened police were shocked. Five years later she has been released from prison, under strict supervision. What now will she make of her life?
This deeply moving novel focuses on four women: Allison; Brynn, the younger sister always in her shadow; Claire, owner of a bookshop; nurse Charm, with a secret that gnaws. How are their lives to become so intertwined? Heather Gudenkauf proves adept at releasing key information in stages, only at the very end the full truth revealed.
Much intrigues, the reader increasingly involved: Allison striving so hard to re-establish contact with Brynn who wants nothing to do with her; Claire fearing she may lose her adored adopted son Joshua; Charm devotedly caring for dying stepfather Gus. Who can fail to share Allison's distress when she briefly returns home - to discover her parents have removed all traces she existed?
Here is a tender tale of love, hopes, fears, yearning for atonement. Surprises are many as the story unfolds, its climax both shocking and sad.
on 17 June 2012
Allison Glenn was imprisoned at a frighteningly young age for a deeply disturbing crime. These Things Hidden opens as she is released from jail early for good behaviour, and has to return to the life and community she left behind. The story focuses on four women - Allison, her sister Brynn, and two of their neighbours, Charm and Claire. Each chapter is told from a different person's point of view and each of the four plot strands slowly bind together, unearthing skeletons from different closets and building to a dramatic climax.
OK, so I am the first to admit I'm a bit of a book snob and this is no literary masterpiece. I have to say that some of the four characters are rather sketchily drawn. Allison and Brynn's chapters are both narrated in the first person, and unfortunately neither of their voices are that strong or distinctive - on a couple of occasions I found myself flicking back to the beginning of the chaper to remind myself of who was actually speaking. The ladies aren't particularly dislikeable but at the same time I felt they lacked that spark that makes you really feel for them.
I also had a bit of a grumble with the way Gudenkauf treats the subject of mental illness in her characters. It's difficult to explain exactly why without including spoilers, though. I don't think it's giving too much away to say that Allison's crime was committed when she was going through a bit of a traumatic time in her personal life - things had gone on that would shake anyone's psyche to the core. The book gives the impression that she is simply packed off to jail without undergoing any sort of psychiatric assessment or receiving any support. All the doctors or police she encounters treat her in a really horrendous 'sick bitch/psycho!' kind of way, and I like to think that society has come a bit further than that. There's more, though - other characters have their own problems with mental illness and this is alluded to with various degrees of clumsiness ranging from constant references to 'take your tablets' right through to extreme heavy-handed stereotypical depictions of psychosis.
Don't you love it, though, when a book is so much better than the sum of its parts? If there's one thing Heather Gudenkauf does really well, it is spinning a cracking good yarn. I whizzed through this book, finishing it in a day - and that was a working day, so you can appreciate that I really did grab every available moment to get through this. I literally couldn't put it down. Through my lunch break, while cooking the dinner, staying up way past my bedtime, you name it. The plot is perfectly weaved and every chapter ends with just a hint of intrigue to keep you wanting more. The final twist was one of those perfect endings where on one hand I didn't have a clue what was coming until the very last moment, but on the other hand I was kicking myself for being so blind because all the evidence had been carefully laid out throughout the book. It takes so much skill for an author to keep just enough back so that the finale has this kind of impact.
I would definitely recommend this one if you're looking for a light but engrossing read. Fair enough, it's not going to win any literary awards. But it is a quick, easy read and is genuinely entertaining. I really enjoyed it.
on 12 June 2015
This was my second book by this author and I will definitely look out for her future work. A great read....likeable characters, the story was well told using 4 different perspectives. Thoroughly enjoyed this.