Hideaway is not an easy read. It’s the story of an abusive mother, Gloria, from the perspectives of her children, Rowan (13) and Maisy (7). Heartbroken after her husband Telly leaves, Gloria takes out her anger on her children, at times sending them out into the woods overnight over misbehaviour, and at other times using them as pawns to try to get Telly to return.
Maisy’s chapters were particularly difficult to read. Her desire to do the right thing (please her mother, keep her brother’s secrets, figure out how to be a good girl when obeying her mother meant betraying her brother) is heartbreaking. And her sincere bewilderment over the truth after all the gaslighting Gloria puts her through makes me want to just call Child Protection Services and take Maisy away to safety.
Rowan’s chapters were somewhat less emotionally painful, probably because he’s a bit older than Maisy is and therefore a bit more aware of how wrong Gloria’s actions are. His story is still sad — he tries to reach out to his father for help, but gets rebuffed and thereby loses part of his innocence. He also befriends a homeless, mentally ill man with a dog, and forms a strong bond with him, which gives him a nice chosen family, albeit one that causes complications in other ways.
Full disclosure: I didn’t finish the book. Not because it’s a bad book. On the contrary, I found Maisy’s chapters too emotionally difficult to keep going. The action does drag a bit, which also kept my attention wandering, but it’s done in a way that feels deliberate. There’s a claustrophobia to the story, a feel that Gloria’s influence will continue to close in on these children. There’s also a sense of hopelessness, a sinking inevitability that life will continue on this way and nothing — not the cops who come to visit nor the father who drops in for dinner — will do anything to change it. On one hand, this lends a feeling of sameness to the chapters, such that I got tired of waiting for a major shift. On the other hand, I can imagine that this is exactly how it feels for the children, who want to escape from Gloria’s tyranny, but can’t quite manage to.
Hideaway is a well-crafted, emotional novel about adult cruelty told through the eyes of children. It’s not an easy read (TW: child abuse, gaslighting, mental illness — schizophrenia, I think?), but for some readers, it would be a powerful one.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.