Book Reviews

Book Review: The Hidden Side

The Hidden Side

By Heidi Chiavaroli

448 pages

**Warning, this review contains spoilers.***   

I love time-slip fiction.  If you’re not familiar, time-slip novels incorporate two (or more) stories taking place in multiple time periods, which are woven into each other so that the reader moves back and forth between each tale.  I’ve been looking for time-slip novels that incorporate more than two time periods and haven’t found many since two points of view (POVs) and two time periods seem to be the norm.  The Hidden Side, while incorporating only two time periods, uses three POVs, which is what drew me to the book.  

I try to write my reviews without giving up the ending of the book or any big spoilers, but I can’t in this one.  So, be warned if you haven’t read the book yet and would like to.

There are three POVs used in this novel.  The first is Natalie, the present-day mother who, despite giving family advice on a radio talk show, is struggling with her own relationship with her teenage twins.  The second is Maelynn, Natalie’s daughter, and the third is Mercy Howard, who struggles with her role as a spy and her feelings for a British officer during the American Revolution.

The stories don’t necessarily need to mirror each other exactly but they should be tied in by something, be it an object or a theme.  In this case, both Natalie and Maelynn read Mercy Howard’s journal and both stories are set in roughly the same location.  As for the theme, struggling to fit into their radically changing worlds and faith in God ties both of the stories together.  

In addition to mirroring the theme, each story should match the other in pacing and tension and this is the area where, in my opinion, this book fell apart at times.  Early on in the present-day story, there is a school shooting and when Natalie rushes from work to the high school, she learns – shock! – that her son is the shooter and his target was his sister’s boyfriend.  This was a huge bombshell and I was actually frustrated when the novel flipped back to Mercy Howard, since her story was taking awhile to find its footing.  I found myself skimming forward to read Natalie’s chapters since that was much more interesting than anything going on with either Mercy or Maelynn.  In fact, at that point, Maelynn’s story jumped back in time to set up her relationship with her boyfriend and while I realize the foundation may be important, it was robbed of all tension because it didn’t seem to add much and I already knew the boyfriend was dead.  I would have preferred for this section to have been in the POV of Chris, the son and shooter, since the most demanding question was why did he kill three people?

At about the midpoint of the book, the pacing and tension evened out and Maelynn’s section became much more interesting and added more relevance.  In fact, her POV became the most important as far as explaining the shooting but I still wanted to be in Chris’s head more than hers.  As far as Mercy’s section, it never captured my interest as much as the modern-day story line.  It felt like a bit of a stretch tying them together and the historic fiction portion didn’t have the same tension and immediate need to be resolved as the current timeline.  I actually felt this didn’t need to be a time-slip novel and could have easily stood on it’s own with just the school-shooter story so if the novel fell short anywhere besides the pacing, it was here.  Both stories should hold the reader’s interest and in this case, they didn’t – although this is a common issue I run into with time-slip novels.  The present-day story was so big that Mercy’s story couldn’t stand up against it.

All that aside, the book wrapped up solidly even if on a bit of a sigh rather than a bang.   The trial took up several chapters and I felt like a lot of the prosecution’s case was working for the defense, and the family didn’t quite get their money’s worth from the defense attorney, but there were no surprises with the outcome.  Also, I would have liked the family’s relationship with Chris to have been dealt with more than it was. 

I give this novel 2.75 stars.

Do you also love time-slip fiction?  What’s your favorite?  Drop me a note!  

Until next time, thank you for visiting.

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.

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