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Review: The Hidden Side

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Review: The Hidden Side

14 Sep Posted by in Reviews | Comments Off on Review: The Hidden Side
Review: The Hidden Side

The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli
Reviewed by: Pam Graber
Genre: Dual Time Frame
Publisher: Tyndale House
Publication Date: May 8, 2018

The Hidden Side is the first book I’ve read by Heidi Chiavaroli, but I will be looking for her others now! This story went beyond powerful, straight to gut-wrenching in the space of just a few pages. Everyone who has kids in school, or who teaches, or who IS in school – upper grades, please – should read this dual-timeframe story.

Set in September 2016, the story is told through the eyes of a mother, Natalie Abbott, her daughter, Maelynn Abbott, and a third narrator who comes out of the American Revolution, Mercy Howard. Natalie Abbott is a radio personality on a Christian station. She doles out spot-on parenting advice on a daily basis at work, however, at home her son is withdrawn, and her daughter wants less and less to do with any of them. Then comes the morning her station manager interrupts her morning show with the news that there’s been a shooting at her kids’ school and she needs to go there immediately.

Rushing to the scene, Natalie is frantic about her twins. When she arrives, her police officer husband, Mike, comes out of the school and directs her to care for their daughter. Equally frantic for her son, Natalie questions Mike, and mistakes his grief, thinking Chris was one of the people who has been shot. When Mike corrects her to say that their son was the shooter, her world collapses. Will she ever be able to show her face in the town again, when everywhere she goes there is condemnation? When even her church isn’t a safe place?

Maelynn’s heart broke the day her brother shot her boyfriend. It broke still further when he pointed the gun at her, too. He was her twin. How did she not see how messed up he was? When she finally visits him, she learns that not everything that day was as cut and dried as it appeared. Can she find forgiveness for a brother who protected her, and himself, the only way he knew how, and will her forgiveness begin the healing that her family so desperately needs?

Interspersed among all this, Mercy Howard leaps off the pages of her journal. Her insights about living a dual life help both Natalie and Maelynn to see some of what Chris dealt with daily. After her fiance was hung as a spy, Mercy chose to help the Revolution in his stead. Her fear is palpable on the page, and her complete distaste for lies of any kind makes her a most unlikely spy. Can Mercy evade the long reach of the Redcoats, when everywhere she turns, they are wreaking havoc? What happens when one of them slips past her heart’s defenses and becomes someone she could love?

I knew this book would be gut-wrenching as soon as I read in the author’s notes that Ms. Chiavaroli thanked Carol Kent and Sue Klebold for their authenticity in telling their stories. I’d heard Carol Kent tell her son’s story before, and I recognized Sue Klebold as the mother of Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooter, so I knew going in that this would be a hard story to read – but a necessary one. Even kids raised in Christian homes, with all the love in the world, can listen to the wrong voice, and do something unspeakable, given enough provocation. No one is immune. As someone who substitute taught 8th, 10th and 12th grade English, I remember being absolutely stunned at exactly how mean kids could be to one another (and no, the Christian kids weren’t always kinder.)

This book felt like I was sitting with an arm around Natalie and the other around Maelynn, as they processed the devastation their lives had become. I wept with both as they stumbled, repeatedly, and I wept for Chris, as one rash decision destroyed any hope of a life outside the walls of a prison. This story is about finding grace and forgiveness amidst tragedy, and finding the tiniest glimmer of hope in the darkness of despair. I highly, highly recommend this book! If there were eight or nine stars, this one would get them from me.

Rated PG-13: This one dealt with some pretty graphic school bullying. I don’t recommend it for young kids, BUT, I do recommend it for Jr. high and up. It is a cautionary tale for both parents and teens and will wrench hearts along the way.

Reviewer’s copy was provided by the Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!


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