Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: 'Hidden' by Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzie's "Hidden" tells the story of two couples: Jeff and Claire Manning and Brian and Tish Underhill. Jeff and Tish work for the same company, whose consultants ceaselessly crunch numbers and are eager to lop off anyone whom they consider to be dead wood. Brian is a busy and dedicated physician and Claire is a former lawyer who runs Playthings, a popular daycare center for one to four-year-olds. These four individuals appear happy enough on the surface. The Underhills adore their precocious daughter, eleven-year-old Zoey, and the Mannings dote on their sensitive son, twelve-year-old Seth. However, when McKenzie digs beneath the façades of these ostensibly solid relationships, she reveals small but widening fissures that could spell trouble ahead. Complicating matters further is a tragic event that no one saw coming. This dramatic incident will force Claire and Tish to face unpleasant realities and make potentially life-changing decisions.

McKenzie analyzes her characters' personalities and deeds with humor, compassion, and insight. Her crisp and unfussy dialogue, in addition to her straightforward and energetic prose style, drives this fast-paced narrative to its satisfying conclusion. As is common in contemporary fiction, McKenzie switches points of view frequently and goes back and forth in time. When we learn more about the characters' aspirations, disappointments, and insecurities, we grow to care about and identify with them.

Along with the problems and joys of marriage and children, McKenzie touches on other relevant themes: temptation, loyalty, secrets (should certain truths remain hidden?), personal sacrifice, and the nature of lasting love. There is a certain amount of ambiguity to muddy the waters; McKenzie is wise to take this route, because real life tends to be messy. Everyone has something to hide, all relationships have strengths and weaknesses, and most of us have done things that make us wince when we remember how poorly we behaved. Readers should relate to and be entertained by "Hidden," an engrossing tale of romance, family angst, grief, and acceptance.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right

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