Thursday, February 7, 2019

Book Review: 'Hide' by Matthew Griffin

Louisiana author Matthew Griffin, a graduate of Wake Forest University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is a visiting professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. HIDE is his debut novel, a fact that is almost impossible to believe, so masterfully crafted, eloquent, sensitive and rich in American history of LGTB issues.

HIDE is luminous – a book so beautiful and so heart rending that it is difficult to review: there is a fear that discussing it will somehow diminish the private impact on the reader. We will keep it short.

The author’s synopsis provides enough information to encourage readers to open this book, and so that is stated here: ‘Set in a declining textile town in North Carolina, Hide is the love story of Wendell Wilson, a taxidermist, and Frank Clifton, a veteran of World War II. They meet after the war, in a time when such love holds real danger. But, severing nearly all ties with the rest of the world, they carve out a home for themselves on the outskirts of town and for decades the routine of self-reliant domesticity--Wendell's cooking, Frank's care for a yard no one sees, and the vicarious drama of courtroom TV--seems to protect them. But when Wendell finds Frank lying motionless outside at the age of eighty-three, their carefully crafted life together begins to unravel. As Frank's physical strength deteriorates and his memory dissolves, Wendell struggles in vain to keep him healthy and to hold onto the man he once knew until, faced with giving care beyond his capacity, he must come to terms with the consequences of half a century in seclusion, the sacrifices they made for each other, and the different lives they might have lived--and most especially the impending, inexorable loss of the one they had.’

Simply stated this is a love story, the likes of which will be difficult to compare with any other love story. The love between these two men who become one, far before the concept of same sex marriage was even a consideration, glows. The simplicity of their commitment to living a hidden life in times post WW II (and even until the past decade) is a candle of hope not only for gay persons who live in regions where their preference is still rebuked, but for all people – races, ethnicity, intermarriage, disabled, etc – who must struggle for acceptance. This is a magnificent novel, but it is also a mirror into which we all must stare, hoping we recognize our responsibility to honor equality and love of every sort. ‘The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one's self to others.’ - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, August 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. 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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