Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own.
Having read a book by Chiavaroli before (The Edge of Mercy), I went into The Hidden Side familiar with her style and curious to see if some of the things that fell a little flat for me in the previous book I read would do the same thing here.
The Hidden Side (and Chiavaroli’s style in general) is really two stories running concurrently—a contemporary one and a historical one. The contemporary one tells the story of the Abbott family and their struggles to hold on to their family and their faith after a devastating and terrible act is committed by the son. The historical one is about Mercy Howard, who becomes a Patriot spy (one of the Culper Ring, I believe) to ferret out British secrets during the Revolutionary War and discovers lots of things about love and faith along the way.
If you’re wondering how in the world Chiavaroli
connects the two stories together, I’m still trying to figure that out myself.
Both stories would be fine on their own, but together, the relation between the
two, the reason why Natalie Abbott is reading the journal of Mercy Howard and
why the reader should care, is a little thin. It’s explained, and probably
makes a lot of sense, but I never really thought about it because my interest
was never in Mercy Howard’s story at all—in fact, I only skimmed her chapters.
To me, it made no sense to have that story in this book because all it did was
distract from the real shining star, which was the gut-wrenching, difficult
story of a family struggling to make sense of why evil things happen. This was
also my problem with The Edge of Mercy—the
historical entry in that book also, I felt, took away from the much more
powerful contemporary one.
I won’t go into the struggle the Abbott family
faces in this novel, as I think it’s best to experience it as it’s presented in
the novel, but it’s an issue that strikes terrifyingly close to society today.
Chiavaroli pulls no punches, but also shows deep sympathy for the complicated
tangle of knots that causes evil and that evil causes. It’s comprehensive and
nuanced, and I applaud Chiavaroli for taking such a difficult subject head-on
and showing the effects and consequences of evil, and how people can move past
it without losing love, mercy, or justice.