These Things Hidden
Heather Gudenkauf, 2011
When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls' golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child.
Her former friends exult her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces 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. (From the publisher.)
• Where—Wagner, South Dakota, USA
• Education—B.A., University of Iowa
• Awards—Edgar Award Finalist
• Currently—lives in Dubuque, Iowa
Heather Gudenkauf was born in Wagner, South Dakota, the youngest of six children. At one month of age, her family returned to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where her father was employed as a guidance counselor and her mother as a school nurse. At the age of three, her family moved to Iowa, where she grew up.
Having been born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment (there were many evenings when Heather and her father made a trip to the bus barn to look around the school bus for her hearing aids that she often conveniently would forget on the seat beside her), Heather tended to use books as a retreat, would climb into the toy box that her father's students from Rosebud made for the family with a pillow, blanket, and flashlight, close the lid, and escape the world around her. Heather became a voracious reader and the seed of becoming a writer was planted.
Gudenkauf graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent the last sixteen years working with students of all ages and is currently an Instructional Coach, an educator who provides curricular and professional development support to teachers. Heather lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Maxine. In her free time Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.Novels
Gudenkauf's scintillating second suspense novel (after The Weight of Silence) opens with the release of 21-year-old Allison Glenn from prison, where she has served five years for an unspecified but particularly horrible crime. Allison is reluctant to enter a halfway house in her hometown of Linden Falls, Iowa, where "even a heroin-addicted prostitute arrested for armed robbery and murder would get more compassion than I ever will." Allison, her family's former golden girl, secures a job at a local bookstore, but her efforts to resume some sort of normal life are undermined by her well-to-do parents' indifference, her sister's hatred, and the stigma of her conviction. Meanwhile, one little boy holds the key to the tragedy that led to Allison's imprisonment. The author slowly and expertly reveals the truth in a tale so chillingly real, it could have come from the latest headlines.
Gudenkauf's second novel (after The Weight of Silence) sees 21-year-old Allison Glenn released on parole after serving five years for an undisclosed but particularly gruesome crime. Disowned by her family and facing a small town's inability to forget her sins, former golden girl Allison reluctantly moves into a halfway house and finds work at a local bookstore, where she unwittingly discovers the key to her tragic past and her potential future: a little boy named Joshua. Verdict: The author unravels the mystery of Allison's crime through the lives of four women. While certain aspects of the story are tinged with melodrama and none of the characters develops a truly unique voice, the suspense is gripping. —Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll., Pepper Pike, OH
1.Charm, Claire and Allison all serve as Joshua's mother at some point in the novel. In the end, who is the best mother? Why do you think so? How does each of these characters evolve throughout the story?
2.The women in the story all love Joshua in their own way. What else do they have in common? What are their differences?
3.Describe Charm's relationship with her mother. How does Charm demonstrate her determination to be different than her mother? What qualities do they share?
4.Olene, the director of the halfway house where Allison resides, tells her to "meet the world with hope in your heart." What does this quote mean for each of the main characters? What does it mean for your own life?
5.Water is consistently referenced throughout the novel. What is its significance? What message do you think the author is trying to relate to the reader?
6.Many of the characters in this novel have hopes and expectations for their family members that are not met. How do the various characters deal with their disappointment? Are their reactions justified? Do you relate to this in your own life?
7.We see glimpses of Allison and Brynn's parents through each girl's eyes. How have their parents shaped each girl? How have their roles in their family defined their relationship? How have your parents shaped you?
8.How does public perception of Allison and Brynn differ from how the sisters view themselves—and each other? How does this change throughout the book? How did your perceptions of Brynn and Allison change as you learned more about each character?
9.It is Christopher that connects Allison to Charm, yet his presence in the story is seen only through the eyes of women in his life. What was your impression of Christopher? Why do you think Allison fell in love with him?
10.In These Things Hidden, several characters take on the role of a parent—for example, Devin, Olene, Gus—for a child to whom they are not biologically related. What makes a good parent? Has there been anyone in your life who has represented the role of a parent for you? Have you done this for anyone in your life?
(Questions from the author's website.)
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