A story involving infidelity in a marriage is always a tough one for me. Not because I can't sympathize with characters or enjoy the storyline, but because I find myself asking the question "what would I do". I think because of that, the story becomes even more emotionally challenging. So it was no surprise that HIDDEN became a really hard book for me.
HIDDEN is told in alternating POVs from Jeff (the husband), Claire (the wife) and Tish (the other woman) as the story of how these three lives intersected is woven. It's not an easy story, watching from the outside, as we see two women's life changed forever when the man who was the center of their lives is suddenly gone. Claire not only has to think of herself, but also their son, as they try to figure out who they go on. Tish has to come to grips with what's been done and refocus on her family.
Tish was the harder character for me to sympathize with. She had a loving husband at home, sure he was gone a lot because of his medical practice, but she had someone. And the fact that she justified what happened with Jeff as he "caught her at the right moment" didn't sit well with me. Of course, I'm also a firm believer that if you're in a relationship and you get to the point where you think you might be going down that cheating path, than you need to get out of that relationship. Tish went into this with eyes wide open and even when she knew it was wrong, kept pressing forward it. She could claim she was going to end things with Jeff, but ultimately, it was Jeff who set the expiration and said they would be done. It was Jeff that said when he looked at the situation, including his wife and son, Tish was the one element of the equation that didn't add up. He made the decision that Claire and Seth were it for him. I don't think, if it was left to Tish, she would have given Jeff up.
Jeff and Claire's were another story. They didn't have a perfect marriage and as we learn, the struggled just like everyone else. So it was hard to see Claire struggle with not only the loss of Jeff, but also to discover that Jeff was not faithful. I'm sure I should hate Jeff in some fashion because of what he did, but it felt like there was something else there that led to what he did. I'm not a believer in tit for tat, but I think on a subconscious level what Jeff did could all be pointed back to his brother Tim's relationship with Claire. Despite the fact that Jeff was married to Claire and they had a life together, I think Jeff still felt like he was competing with his brother. It didn't matter what Claire said, I think it was just a deep rooted fear in him that led him to make a bad decision. Not that the decision should be forgiven, it can't be, but I think I could understand more where he was coming from.
As the blurb to the book says, the story is about choices and the repercussions those choices have. They all made some bad choices, but I think Tish and Claire ended up realizing what is important to them. It was a difficult road, especially for Claire, but she discovers that even though he may have sought something in Tish's arms, he chose to stay with her. They'd both screwed up and chosen each other, which I think helped her in the end.
Despite the tough subject matter, I couldn't put this book down. Catherine McKenzie has a gift for crafting a storyline that pulls you in and evokes a strong emotional response. If you can get through the subject matter, it's a book that needs to be read and an author you should put on your follow list.