A heart-wrenching but ultimately triumphant story of a woman who had to find herself years after leaving her old life behind
I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction, so this is an unusual review for me. It occurred to me approximately five pages into the book that the reason I don’t read this genre much is because I like my heart right where it’s at and not smashed to pieces then stomped on by the end of the first chapter.
This book started out with a knife in the gut as Nina’s husband dies while she’s at a rugby match watching their older son play. The knife twists around when it’s disclosed that Finn not only died tragically but also in debt (to the tune of £8 million), having taken out additional mortgages on their (what Nina thought free-and-clear) home.
Nina and her boys-Connor and Declan-are forced to vacate their home after watching it stripped bare of most of their possessions and return to the way-less-posh neighborhood of Nina’s childhood; a neighborhood and past she tried to escape.
It’s easy to feel sorry for a character who’s had so much piled on them that they can’t see the forest for the trees, and it’s easier for those characters to feel sorry for themselves. After all, Nina hasn’t ever had a job outside the home, hasn’t wanted for anything, and now needs to find a place to live on the few hundred pounds she’d managed to hide from the bill collectors and a job with zero experience.
Nina’s sister, Tiggy, was my favorite character in this book. Tiggy pulled no punches when it came to Nina’s learned helplessness, and that’s often something missing from books like this.
The rebuilding of Nina’s and Tiggy’s relationship, sundered when Nina ran to Bath with Finn and seldom looked back, is one of the main themes of the story. There were moments of humor (at one point, they are in a thrift store and loudly mock a clock they see…in front of the person who donated it), heartache (when Nina realizes how poorly she’s been treating her sister all these years), triumph (I cheered aloud when Nina got a job), and truth bombs:
I think happiness lies in being content now – right now! Every day! …if you are constantly waiting for happiness to start, waiting for the change that will make it happen, then you just might miss some really good days along the way.
The Art of Hiding is a beautiful book of hope and redemption framed by the familial relationships that are often taken for granted. There were times I wondered if it was all being wrapped up too neatly, but then I told myself that if it hadn’t been, I would’ve been angry, so this is the only way the book could’ve played out. It was hard to read for many personal reasons, but I’m so glad I did.