Jeff Manning has no idea that the day he fires a co-worker will be his last. Killed in a car accident, two women in his life fall to pieces when they hear the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker, Tish.
When Tish volunteers to attend Jeff’s funeral, on behalf of the company they both worked for, she comes face to face with Claire, who is not exactly what she expected, and her young son.
Living completely separate lives, Claire and Tish are united in their grief for the one man who gave their lives meaning.
Told through alternating point of views between the three characters, Hidden tells the tale of the things we do for the people we love, and the secrets we’re willing to keep from them.
So normally I don’t read books about people who cheat on their spouses or partners; it’s just something I have a hard time stomaching.
But after reading and enjoying Catherine McKenzie’s previous book Arranged, I decided to give this one a try. And I’m so glad I did!
McKenzie excels at writing characters that are compelling, interesting, and real. Throughout the entire time I was reading I never felt that any of the characters were caricatures. They were all so complex and all equally well developed.
In stories like these, the wife or the one who gets cheated on is often a weak character, one who you even feel deserves what happens to them, but in this case, Claire’s grief echoes throughout the story. She’s now a widow and a single mother overnight, and coping with all of that, in addition to a niggling feeling she has of her dead husband’s infidelity, is a lot to handle.
Tish is another character that had the potential of becoming the cliched Other Woman, but McKenzie doesn’t let her become that. By reading about her life and her struggles, we discover what makes her tick, and how she copes with the news of Jeff’s death. Her relationship with her family was well-developed, and like all other characters in the novel, her husband and daughter were fleshed out.
A lot of this novel takes place in the past, by way of flashback, and this might be annoying to some people, but I really enjoyed it. Learning how and why Claire and Jeff met and got married really added a depth to their characters and to their stories. Instead of just having Claire grieving for Jeff after he dies, you have her (and him) reminiscing about their life together, and the times when they almost lost faith in each other. Similarly, we learn how Tish and Jeff met.
Because of these flashbacks, I had a very hard time picking sides. Mckenzie does an amazing job of weaving the story so that, after listening to the tales of Jeff, Claire, and Tish, you can’t decide who you think is right or who you think is wrong. And I think that’s the point.
The ending of the novel moves toward a big revelation it seems, and it begs the question of whether Claire deserves to know about Jeff and Tish, or whether some things need to be kept hidden. This is pretty much the recurring theme throughout the novel, about the importance of keeping things hidden, and it continues until the end.
The ending was not my favourite part, because after everything was said and done, I couldn’t quite understand why Jeff and Tish did what they did. I’d like to say that I agree to disagree in this situation, but that didn’t make the novel any less enjoyable for me.
Filled with heartbreak and complex, real characters, Hidden was an enjoyable read, and one that asked some very real, deep questions.
So for that: 4/5.
Thanks for reading,