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These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

This book drew me in (and presumably I was not the only one!) with its blurbs all over the interwebs referencing abundant vagueness: teenaged Allison has just been released from prison; the former perfect princess committed some unspecified, horrendous crime. Brynn, her invisible sister, struggles to move on from her sister’s mistake. And two unrelated women angst over Allison’s presence, while a little boy’s fate is held in the balance. All this vagueness, and promises of suspense, got me excited; but I found myself disappointed in the end.

For one thing, The Big Question of what Allison did is answered very early on, which I found rather anticlimactic; the questions that remained for the rest of the book felt a touch wanting in suspense after the blurbs built me up. Perhaps most frustrating was the continued and continuing obsession with maternity and motherhood that I’ve repeatedly observed in today’s pop fiction. That’s a personal beef; it’s just not my fave; but it’s worth noting that this book seems to follow a trend.

I didn’t find any one character really sympathetic. Each of them was mildly likeable; but none got me really deeply rooting for them. Also, there was almost no male role at all in the whole book. Again, this is a personal gripe, since I like my worlds a little more gender-diverse. In the end the most likeable character I found was the grandmother, but she was pretty minor; I don’t think she even had a name.

It’s not all bad. I did sit up and read this book all the way through in one sitting; I stayed up past my bedtime to finish it (not much, just 1/2 an hour, maybe an hour); I wanted to get to the end. But, it wasn’t the most burning need-to-finish; and I wouldn’t have stayed up much later. It was a fine book that suited me for an evening. It was an easy read: enjoyable, superficial and superficially enjoyable. Not a bad thing for a plane trip or bus ride. But nothing especially sparkled. I give it a “meh” and am disappointed because I had hoped for more.

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