Saturday, June 7, 2014

My Review of Lynn Austin's Novel, Hidden Places

What an engaging story! I wanted to root for Eliza and Gabe, but then they each carried so many secrets and so much lifelong anger, I wasn’t so sure they belonged together—or with anyone. But as I read, mysteries unraveled and hidden places became exposed. It became easier to see how they became the people they were and how they might change.

I liked a number of aspects of this book. Aunt Batty, for one. What a memorable, eccentric, funny, saving-grace character! The novel’s exploration of people’s varying relationships with God and interpretations of scripture, for another. How many lives are miserable because people see difficult circumstances as God’s punishment, or because they don’t deal directly with God about their shame and guilt? How many lives transcend this world’s sorrows because people trust God's goodness? The discussion of scripture in this novel felt organic to me, too. Yet another thing I liked was the historical detail—hobos lives during the Depression, daily farm life, how an orchard was run back then, how people dressed, how the gender gap played out in the early 1900s, and so forth. I also liked that the novel contained beautifully told stories of multiple generations. It’s in learning Eliza’s and Gabe’s family backgrounds that I could see the hidden places they weren’t showing each other.

Normally, I consider a novel’s jumping back and forth in time a pet peeve. When the first flashback happened, I thought, “Oh no.” But previous subplots had so piqued my curiosity that I just had to learn what went before. The multigenerational stories were interesting and revelatory of the characters. And somehow, I never really got lost in time. The novel contained a few too many mentions of angels for my taste, but that didn't keep me from enjoying the story.

I look forward to reading other Lynn Austin novels.

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