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A secret no one dared whisper…


These  Things Hidden

These Things Hidden, February 2011
by Heather Gudenkauf

MIRA
Featuring: Allison Glenn; Brynn Glenn
352 pages
ISBN: 0778328791
EAN: 9780778328797
Kindle: B004JF6830
Trade Size / e-Book
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"Who we are is defined by what we do and why we do it."

Fresh Fiction Review

These Things Hidden
Heather Gudenkauf

Reviewed by Sabrina Marino
Posted January 6, 2011

Women's Fiction | Mystery

Allison Glenn lives the perfect life. She is the perfect student, the perfect daughter, the perfect athlete, but is she the perfect sister? When Allison's sister, Brynn, was younger, Allison was her hero. But as the girls grew into teenagers and Allison spent more time out of the house with her friends and at school events, Brynn felt lost. Allison, for the first time, felt free from the many pressures on her when she met a young man and fell in love. She lost her virginity to him, but soon realized all her plans to leave the small town she grew up in were falling apart the more time she spent with her boyfriend. So she did what she had to do. She broke it off and went back to studying for her college entrance exams.

A pregnancy that was hidden from everyone, including her family, is the turning point for this perfect teenager who loses everything she had ever dreamed of the night she gives birth. But Brynn is there for her when she needs her the most.

Before the night is over, an infant daughter is found dead in the river, Allison spends days in the hospital recovering from blood loss, then is taken into custody where she confesses to killing her newborn baby.

After five years in prison, Allison is let out on parole to a halfway house in her home town. Her parents have wiped her out of their lives and her sister, who is now living with their grandmother, will not speak to her. She is able to get a job at a bookstore and works for a woman who has a five-year-old adopted boy, Joshua.

Charm Tullia lives with her step-father who is dying from cancer. Five years earlier she held a newborn baby in her arms and cared for him for almost a month before having to choose between caring for her dying stepfather or caring for the baby. At 15, she couldn't do both, so she took the baby to a safe drop zone and left him. Now she watches him grow up each time she goes to the bookstore.

One fateful night and one perfect girl's actions tie all these people together in a way that changes their lives forever.

THESE THINGS HIDDEN is a story of a girl's fall from grace. The pressures on a teenager can have dramatic results and a sister's love may not be enough. Heather Gudenkauf has captured heart-wrenching emotion and spilled it out on the pages of her moving novel, which will touch you and leave you bleeding for the characters in THESE THINGS HIDDEN. A remarkable story.

Learn more about These Things Hidden

SUMMARY

Heather Gudenkauf, acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Weight of Silence, returns with a provacative, powerful and deeply moving novel about one little boy and the women who love him.

When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind forever her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her in her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces the 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.

Excerpt

I set the receiver back into its cradle, all the while knowing that Olene is watching me carefully with her quick, birdlike eyes. Once I get settled and find a job, one of the first things I’m going to buy is a cell phone so I can have a little privacy when I talk. I’m sure my parents would buy me a phone, but I don’t want my first interaction with them to be about money. Besides, I want to show them that I’m

going to be okay, that I can take care of myself. I wonder if they are thinking about me right now. Secretly, I had hoped they would have been parked in front of Gertrude House to welcome me when I arrived.

Olene must be psychic, because she says, "Many of the residents have cell phones, but we have guidelines here that phones need to be turned off while doing chores or when we are having group sessions. We want to respect others’ need for quiet." Olene picks up where she left off with the tour. She leads me through the kitchen, where we will take turns making dinner, and to an octagonal room with a ceiling that extends bove the second floor. This is where the residents watch television. A gray-haired woman wearing a waitress uniform is dozing on a sofa and a young, petite, dark-skinned woman is holding a toddler on her lap and singing softly to him in Spanish. The television is tuned to a soap opera, the volume muted.

"This is Flora and her son, Manalo," Olene says in a whisper.

"And that’s Martha." Olene waves a hand toward the slumbering woman. Flora’s eyes narrow into suspicious slits and she gathers Manalo more closely to her. The little boy waves a chubby hand at us and grins.

"Nice to meet you," I say.

Flora speaks rapidly to Olene in Spanish, her tone tight and hostile, and Olene responds back in Spanish, as well. I have the feeling that Olene is going to have to do a lot of talking to calm the other residents of Gertrude House when it comes to me.

"Let’s go on upstairs and I’ll show you your room," Olene says, taking me by the elbow and steering me from the television room to the spiral staircase that leads to the bedrooms. I can feel Flora’s eyes on my back as I follow Olene up the steps. I’ve been here for all of twenty minutes and everyone already seems to know who I am and what I’ve done. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me so much, I had to deal with the same things in jail, but this seems different somehow.

"The expectation is that everyone takes an active role in the upkeep of the house," Olene says, and I can see this is true. There isn’t a speck of dust anywhere and the floors gleam. Olene gently knocks on a closed door before opening it to reveal a small room with bunk beds and two small dressers. The beds are made up with blue and white floral comforters and thick, soft pillows. Another rush of exhaustion overtakes me and I want to go lie down. The walls are painted sky-blue and there are crisp, white curtains covering the windows. It’s a very peaceful room.

"Your roommate, Bea, is at work right now. She’ll be home in a few hours. Why don’t you unpack your things, get settled and I’ll come back in a little while and we can finish the orientation."

I look at the bunk beds and hesitate, wondering which one is mine.

"You get the bottom bed," Olene says. "Bea likes to sleep on the top bunk—she says

that the bottom bed makes her feel claustrophobic."

Olene pats me on the arm as she moves to leave the room.

"Olene," I say. She turns back to me, and I’m stricken by how kind her worn face is. "Thank you."

"You’re welcome." She smiles. "Get a little rest and holler if you need anything."

My few belongings fit into one drawer of my bureau with room to spare. In a way, Gertrude House reminds me of the summer camp I attended when I was eleven. I share a room with bunk beds and, from what Olene has said, we follow a very specific schedule that is posted in the main gathering area. From the moment we wake up at five-thirty to lights out at ten-thirty, our day is filled with chores, and group sessions on everything from managing finances to anger

management to mastering interview skills.

I sit on the lower bunk and bounce a bit. The springs are firm but giving. This feels like a real bed, not like Cravenville’s hard, institutional slab, with rough, scratchy sheets that smelled of bleach. I lift a fluffy pillow and bury my nose in it. It smells of lavender and I feel tears prick at my eyes. Maybe it won’t be so bad here. It couldn’t be any worse than jail. Maybe the other girls will learn to like me. Maybe my parents will forget about what the neighbors think and welcome me as their daughter again. And maybe, just maybe, Brynn will forgive me.

I inhale deeply one more time and lower the pillow from my face and that’s when I see it. Its blank eyes stare up at me and its smudged plastic face is frozen in a half smile. I pick up the baby doll. It’s old and battered and looks like it came out of a Dumpster. Across the doll’s bare chest is one word, slashed in black permanent marker, a word that I now know will follow me everywhere, no matter where I go. Killer.


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