“You all set to get out of here?” Allison Glenn is asked by her attorney as she is being released from prison after five years. “Yes, I’m ready,” she answers, with a surprising reluctance. “I’m going to live in a place I’ve never been before with people I’ve never met. I have no money, no job, no friends and my family has disowned me, but I’m ready. I have to be.” Allison is attempting to start anew --- trying to put her past behind her, which is difficult to do when certain people seem hell-bent on making sure your past is always present.
Sixteen-year-old Allison was the Golden Child of the Glenn family. Tall, blonde and athletic, with terrific grades and involvement in all sorts of activities, she had it all. Her more subdued sister, Brynn, lived quietly in her shadow. Just a year younger, she couldn’t hold a candle to her older sister’s accomplishments --- at least not in her parents’ eyes. But after a monstrous crime occurs, the Glenn family and their small town are shaken to their core. Allison is arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail. Her parents, in shock and worried more about their precious reputation than their own daughter, disown her, and even Brynn, her only sister, will not speak to her. Upon her release, Allison wants to make things right, if not with her parents, then at least with her sister.
After settling in to Gertrude House, her court-appointed halfway house that will be her home for the next six months, Allison goes in search of a job. People aren’t exactly lining up to hire ex-cons, but luckily for her, the local bookstore, owned and operated by Claire Kelby and her husband Jonathan, are happy to participate in a new program that will hire the recently paroled. The first piece in her new life plan is in place --- she has a job. Now if only she can get Brynn and her parents to talk to her.
Brynn has suffered greatly in the wake of the scandal that sent her sister to prison. After a botched suicide attempt, she moved out of her parents’ home in Linden Falls and retreated several towns away to live with her grandmother. Under her grandmother’s loving care, she discovers a love for animals that could possibly even be a career. Brynn starts classes at the local community college and is training her pooch to be a therapy dog. Social situations still make her anxious, and even the thought of talking to her sister again can bring about a full-blown panic attack.
Charm Tullia is that rare person who could be readily described as an “old young person.” Despite her age, Charm bears so much responsibility on her young shoulders. She cares for her ailing stepfather, Gus, who is suffering through the last stages of lung cancer, as well as going to school full-time. Her mother, Reanne, was married to Gus for four years, and in her usual fashion grew tired of him and took off for greener pastures. But Charm wanted to stay with Gus; she longed for stability for a change, and though their lives haven’t been easy, they’ve been stable. That is, until Gus got sick. The best part of her day is when she can stop in at her favorite bookstore and chat with Claire and her adorable son, Joshua.
Claire feels so blessed with all she has in life --- a wonderful husband, a job she loves, and sweet Joshua, just five years old and full of wonder. Being a parent isn’t something she takes for granted. She and Jonathan weren’t able to have children of their own and soon became foster parents to a little girl named Ella. But after a year, Ella’s mother cleaned up her act and wanted her back. Claire and Jonathan were heartbroken and never wanted to go through something that traumatic again. But as fate would have it, not long after that, Claire received a call that a baby had been abandoned at a local fire station and was asked if she would care for him. She knew it was a risk, but she jumped to the task, and after a year, she and Jonathan legally adopted Joshua. He was their very own.
But as Allison attempts to right the wrongs of her past, secrets bubble to the surface that threaten the peaceful existence of those around her, and a shocking revelation will leave readers gasping. Fans of Jodi Picoult, Anita Shreve and Kim Edwards (especially of THE MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER) will enjoy Heather Gudenkauf’s well-paced story of suspense, betrayal, love, and what it really means to be a mother.
Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller on March 28, 2011
These Things Hidden