Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Art of Hiding

Title:  The Art of Hiding
Author:  Amanda Prowse
Publication Information:  Lake Union Publishing. 2017. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1611099552 / 978-1611099553

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Nina caught the red light only a spit away from the entrance to the boys school."

Favorite Quote:  "And if ever the real world feels too big or too scary, remember that is is nothing more than a little ball travelling through space and it fits right into the palm of your hand and the more courage you have, and the braver you are when facing it, the easier it is to conquer!"

The Art of Hiding is a rags to riches to rags story. Nina McCarrick is a first generation immigrant from Denmark and comes from humble beginnings. She falls in love and marries into wealth. Finn McCarrick is an up and coming businessman who wants nothing more than to take care of Nina. And she lets him, giving up on her independence and her dreams. Years pass, and they build a beautiful life. Two handsome young boys. A mansion in the suburbs. A private school education for their children. Nina never worries about money; Finn handles all of that. Nina never feels like she quite fits in, but life is good.

Then, Finn dies, and Nina discovers that her life is not at all like it appears. Bankruptcy drives Nina and her boys back to the modest neighborhood in which she grew up. Fortunately, she has the support of her sister Tiggy.

Such a premise sets up a story of survival and the courage to move forward. At the end, the word that comes to mind is sadly cliché. Unfortunately, for a couple of reasons, the story fails to engage me.

First is the stereotypes and extremes that the book builds its world on. Nina finds no friends in her life with Finn. She lives in a mansion, but it is more like a gilded cage. She portrays everyone in that life as money minded, shallow, and unpleasant. Back in her own modest neighborhood, she meets only people willing to lend a hand and help things work out for her and her boys. Perhaps, the intent is to depict the effect Finn's control on her life and the release from that control as Nina rediscovers herself. Unfortunately, what comes through is just the stereotypes because even after Finn's death, none of those relationships change.

Second is the character of Nina herself. She comes across not as a woman trying to survive a catastrophe, but as a self-centered woman not giving thought to those around her. Unfortunately, shallow is the word that comes to mind. This particularly manifests itself in her relationship with her sister Tiggy. Tiggy cares for Nina both as big sister and mother after their mother died. Yet, Nina leaves her behind when she marries Finn. Again, perhaps the intent is to depict the effect Finn's control on her life but what comes through is that Nina walks away. Tiggy is the first and only person to truly come to Nina's assistance when Finn dies. However, Nina is not appreciative of that support and certainly does not give thought to the challenges and struggles of Tiggy's life.

Finally, there are aspects of this book that leave me frustrated. First and foremost, Nina is completely clueless about the state of their finances when Finn dies. Does that happen in real life? Sadly, yes. Should it happen? Absolutely not. No one should be content with being told essentially to "not worry your pretty little head about it." (That cliche is mine not a quote from the book.) Secondly, one reaction is missing in Nina throughout the book. I wait for it, but it never comes. Anger. Anger towards Finn who treated her in such a manner and who managed to wreak such havoc with their lives. Nina never finds that anger, which seems completely unrealistic.

At the end, a story that should have been about courage and survival turns into one about shallow characters and stereotypes. Not the book for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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