Hidden is a 2013 novel from Catherine McKenzie. It’s an international best seller, same as her previous three. Her novels share one word titles, and women exploring their lives and relationships in various circumstances. Hidden tells how one man’s death affects two women: his wife, and a co-worker he was involved with.
The story unfolds from three perspectives: the late Jeff, his wife Claire, and his co-worker Tish. All three narrate both present events and flashbacks. Sorting out who is speaking and the time they are discussing takes a little effort, but it is worth it to see the plot elements coming together from different directions. There are two main story arcs. In the present, there is Claire’s gradual discovery that Jeff may have had an affair, and in the past, there is the developing affair.
It’s not that Jeff and Claire have an unhappy marriage, but there are the minor frictions and disappointments that arise from the compromises of living with someone for many years. It doesn’t help that Jeff once saw Claire share a kiss with her former boyfriend, his brother. Tish has made some compromises in her marriage too, so when she meets Jeff, a co-worker with similar interests, it does not take long for humourous emails to become flirtatious.
McKenzie sets up her characters and situations such that an affair seems almost entirely innocent and natural. She also does an excellent job of creating long and short term suspense. One reviewer complained that the two women are too similar, but I believe that’s deliberate, and part of the innocence of the affair.
Claire wants to know if the affair was consummated, and so does the reader, but as a friend of Claire’s suggests, some things are better hidden. The book’s ending is a satisfying celebration of love and promises kept. Have tissues handy.