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Hidden: A Novel Hardcover – June 29, 2004
The Amazon Book Review
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From Publishers Weekly
An Indiana woman whose world was shattered in one fateful night spends the entirety of this meditative literary debut/sleepy thriller unraveling its events. Twenty-two-year-old Maggie's crumbling marriage takes its final blow when she is beaten nearly to death in her idyllic farmhouse, and Nate, her domineering and abusive husband, is put in prison for the crime. Cross-cutting between the mid-1990s, before the assault, and the novel's present in 2002, Jaskunas weaves a complex mystery: though everything Maggie remembers about that night suggests that Nate was the perpetrator, a convict about to be released claims responsibility for the six-year-old crime. When Nate is exonerated, Maggie is thrown into a lonely spiral of self-doubt and confusion. At the heart of this insightful, atmospheric novel are the complexities of truth—how much can Maggie trust her own version of events? Jaskunas gracefully evokes the beauty of his rural Indiana setting and the town of New Harmony, where epileptic, solitary Maggie is now the "local eccentric.... the village freak," who must dig into her former life, unearthing denials she had been living all along: "I can see the spot where hung the painting of our perfect home," she says, "the lie that started all the lies."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In a rural Indiana farmhouse, Maggie Duke is living with the aftermath of a late-night assault that shattered her health, her peace of mind, and her marriage. Narrating in Maggie's somber, poetic voice, Jaskunas fills in the details slowly: Maggie is young, the match was ill-considered. Her husband, Nate Duke, was abusive. Maggie identified Nate as the man who came to the door with a rock in his hand. And Nate has been freed from prison after another man confessed to the crime. Had Maggie, waking in the hospital after a brain injury, gotten things wrong? Did she remember Nate striking her because she wanted to? This is an extremely impressive first novel, stylistically assured and emotionally probing. Jaskunas' characters--especially his female lead--practically spring from the page, their fears, flaws, and behavior all startlingly real. Especially laudable is Jaskunas' refusal, in an age of literature as therapy, to bring this tale of abuse, depression, and alcoholism to a pat, life-affirming ending. Sometimes life is so hard that simply staying alive is victory enough. Keir Graff
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Maggie Duke is brutally assaulted in her home late at night. She sustains a head injury that makes it difficult initially for her to remember the details of the attack. But when she does remember, she believes it was her husband who attacked her. The story is told both in the past and in the present. When Maggie's version of her attack is discredited, she forces herself to examine as many details of her past and present as she can, and she uses trial documents and transcripts to jog her memory.
It would seem logical that, given the circumstances of Maggie's predicament, she would be a sympathetic character. I did not find that to be the case. While I agree that Paul Jaskunas is a talented writer, his Maggie Duke character came across to me as tediously self-absorbed rather than sympathetic. And while some may see Jaskunas' writing as almost poetic, I found it to be somewhat ponderous. The simple act of aimlessly driving down a country road became next thing to an exploration of the meaning of life. Sometimes a road is just a road and a drive is just a drive. No other characters in this book were developed to the extent Maggie Duke was, so I found no other characters very interesting. They existed merely for Maggie's use; a means for her to more deeply explore herself.
Yet in spite of those criticisms, I do think this book was well written, and the story was well thought out. I'd be interested in seeing what Jaskunas does next.
The story is told thru Maggie's point of view. Attacked and left for dead, Maggie struggles to move on with her life and come to terms with what really happened that fateful night. The author does a magnificent job of telling the story in the present tense while masterfully using flashbacks.
Jaskunas creates a multi-dimensional character that leaves a lasting impact. My initial draw of this book was the mystery of the attack. But it was Maggie's struggle and survival that rivited me. A must read for anyone looking for a fast paced, moving, and suspenseful novel.
By page 14, we figure out that Maggie, the main character, has no idea who attacked her, even though she positively identified her husband in court. And then, on for the rest of the novel, this is never again explored. I was expecting some self-inspection here, but instead the characters are flat and boring.
I picked this book up hoping for something that would really get us into the mind of this woman, whose story could have been an interesting one. Instead, we get this uninspired story that fails to actually tell any kind of story. The only thing remotely interesting about this book is that the male author tells a woman's story from the first person (and that's been done before, by much more talented writers). Save your money and buy a book worth reading.
Maggie Wilson is a survivor of a vicious attack in her home that left her nearly dead. Her husband went to jail for the crime, but now, six years later, another man has come forward claiming responsibility for the act at the same time her husband is being released from jail. As Maggie tries to stay focused in a hazy present, the past weaves the truth that hopefully will give some much needed clarity to her fragile mind. Shifting back and forth, both past and present carry their own suspenseful narratives. One of a young bride discovering the man her husband really is, and the other of a woman facing that past all over again. While the ending didn't play out how I imagined, or perhaps would've liked, it's still a fast page turning book with a wonderfully realized woman at it's core.
This isn't a badly written book. The language is poetic, and the descriptive passages are powerfully drawn. However, beautiful language alone does not make a great novel; there are at least two other vital components. 1) A reader must be interested in the story (which Jaskunas accomplishes), and 2) the reader must have a cause to identify with the characters (which he doesn't). While identification with ALL characters is important, it is particularly important that a reader identify with the protagonist. That is where this novel falls short.
The writing, as stated, is strong. The story, especially at the beginning, is promising. But the farther you travel into the novel, the less you like Maggie. Sure, you feel sorry for her predicament, but "sorry" only takes you so far. Eventually, a reader begins to wonder why she wishes to punish herself, both before and after her attack. Why must she make such terrible choices? Why must she refuse to take responsibility for them? In the end, I didn't particularly care what Maggie did with herself; I was tired of her. That's a terrible way to feel about the character at the center of a novel, and the principal reason that some have reacted negatively to the novel as a whole.
Jaskunas has great promise as a writer. One can only hope that he will pull himself from this murky trend of the unlikeable narrator and use his talents on something (and someone) more worthy next time.
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