Hidden by Catherine McKenzie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Description: When a married man suffers a sudden fatal accident, two women are shattered—his wife and someone else's—and past secrets, desires and regrets are brought to light
While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Not one but two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son and contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother—her ex-boyfriend—Tim.
With Tish’s co-workers in the dark about her connection to Jeff outside the workplace, she volunteers to attend the funeral on the company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life. Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, our personal choices and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.
“Catherine McKenzie’s latest book may be her finest. HIDDEN explores the intersecting lives of a man, his wife, and a woman who may or may not be his mistress. Imaginatively constructed, filled with nail-biting tension and gracefully written, HIDDEN is a winner.” — Sarah Pekkanen, author of These Girls and Skipping a Beat
“What I love about this deft, intimate novel is that here are no angels or demons here, just adults—husbands, wives, mothers, fathers—leading complex, messy, very human lives. They all struggle to weigh desire against obligation, what they want against what is right. I found myself in the impossible, wonderful position of rooting for all of them—and of missing them when the book was over.” — Marisa de los Santos, author of Belong to Me and Love Walked In
“Using distinct narrative voices, Catherine McKenzie has crafted a compelling novel that kept me turning pages at a breakneck speed. Heartbreakingly honest and real, Hidden is a wonderfully relatable tale.” — Tracey Garvis Graves, New York Times bestselling author of On The Island
My thoughts: I love Catherine McKenzie. I started reading her books with Spin. It was funny, intelligent, and oddly insightful. Soon I found Arranged and then Forgotten. The books were growing more complex in terms of relationships and insightfulness. If you know me, you know that I love a really good book on complex, female relationships but absolutely love an author that writes in humor that makes me laugh out loud. That is the way of Catherine McKenzie. What she may or may not know is that if we lived closer, we'd be best friends.
An observation. Not everybody is a good writer. Not every good writer writes a good book. I'm even stunned to read emails from professionals at work with Master's degrees in education who can not write. In thinking more on that fact, I realize that my gift of writing did not come with my education in educational psychology. It came from my childhood habit of keeping a journal and writing in it all through the angst of my adolescence and beyond. Because there I could be who I truly am and I could also articulate what I couldn't articulate verbally because of a neurological stutter. So I'm not a strong public speaker so I compensate with writing. Although they make me speak publicly for work so maybe I will become stronger. *Snort* I won't.
So here's the last point I want to make on Catherine McKenzie and her talent and gift of writing. She is an extremely intelligent and educated woman who also happens to practice law. I've noticed an occasional character that has some law training in her books but this is not the emphasis. The emphasis is articulating thoughts, relationships, and feelings through her words. So. She is, most likely, a gifted public speaker as well as a writer who can take those feelings we haven't quite articulated to ourselves and turn them into something nearly tangible without comfortably choosing a lawyer niche. I find that incredibly talented.
So this book is a completely different angle than any of her other books. The story is written first person, in three different voices. Jeff continues to narrate even though he died. He tells the reader of the past. He explains how he and Tish meet. How he and Tish meet again. He tells about Claire. About how he hesitated to move on expanding their relationship because she used to date her brother. Jeff gives the insights that only Jeff can give. But he doesn't reveal how important either Claire or Tish are to him. Only that they are significant to him. We are wondering until the very end (which is revealed) how important Tish was to him and whether or not he had an affair with her.
The beauty of the story is the complexity of the characters. Tish is not a vixen. She doesn't have a horrible husband. Jeff is not looking for a relationship outside his marriage. Claire is good but she questions if she may have planted seeds of doubt in Jeff's mind. They are all very human and fragile in their states of grief and relations. The way the author phrased certain ideas and experiences were finally too much for me. I got out my yellow highlighter (I did mention that I'm an educator, didn't I?) and the last quarter of the book is now filled with yellow.
This book has not yet come out in the U.S. It's only out in Canada. So all you Canadians, read it. All you Americans, just wait. You're going to love it.