Friday, June 1, 2018

The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli

History and present day meet in this new release. Chiavaroli takes us on a journey. We travel back and forth between the years of 1776 and 2016. It is 240 years that separate these two magnificently told stories, but Heidi brilliantly brings together two stories into a powerful read about the hidden heart. 

You know, it's that part we hide for many reasons. In 1776 we meet Mercy Howard. Oh, she is a thrilling character. So strong, steadfast, and full of patriotism. Her heart is full of grace and love. She stands for what is right and true. She hates injustice. She is finding herself in the middle of a war where she must take a side. 

I loved traveling back in time with Mercy. The characters that are side by side Mercy are those like herself. They have high standards. They are choosing to believe in something bigger than themselves. They are willing to sacrifice. What I love about Mercy is that she just doesn't allow herself to be a follower, but she pushes fear aside and decides to lead. She is that character that doesn't take things lightly. When she decides to take sides, she must hide the truth of her beliefs in order to seek aid Washington. She has seen those around her lose their life for standing for what is right. She is willing to risk everything. This reminds me of scripture and giving one's life for a friend. 

We follow Mercy and her struggle in hiding her true self. You gotta love a girl who keeps a journal. 

Now the other side of the story. This story was hard for me. It was deep, raw, and transparent. Again, Heidi is brilliant how she brings out the heart of her characters. Here in black and white they are brought to life. We are allowed to see every aspect of their lives. This is a story that could be a stand out all on its own, but as Heidi brings them together, just WOW!!! 

Let us go to New York in the year of 2016. We meet a family. Natalie, Mike, Maelynn, and Chris. The Abbot family is that all American Christian family. Natalie has a job in Christian radio. Mike is a police officer. Chris and Maelynn are twin teenagers. This family is living like many. They are busy. Life circles around them. One day all is wonderful, and then they stop sharing. They are now living right above the surface. 

Tragedy. A school shooting. This is where the story gets really difficult. Yes, it is a hard read. But Heidi is magnificent in how she allows the reader to see the heart of each character. The hidden side and the reality, the truth, that somehow gets paved over to make it look easy and right. You know facade we can all put on so easily so others think our family is just like every other family sitting in church. What we are all afraid to admit is that we are all sinners. We all struggle. We are all a mess, trying to do our best in situations that are not easy at all. 

What I love is that with this school shooting, we are allowed to see the struggle of this family in the aftermath of the reality that their son was the shooter. We understand more of Chris. Oh, we are still left with questions, but as for this family we see the struggle of what they must now live. 

I too admire how Heidi allows the reader to understand better these teens who struggle in life just to try and fit in, to be normal, to just be accepted. We too see parents that are having to try and understand the why and how of things in this tragedy. 

We are just given so much to absorb. It took me quite a while to read through this novel. I wouldn't have wanted to do it all in one sitting. There's too much to ponder. This is one of those novels I will not soon forget. We never want to be the parent of the child who is slain at school. But how often do we really think about the parent of the child who did the shooting? This book made me ponder those parents. As uncomfortable as that was, it was needed. 

Natalie is trying to make sense of what cannot possibly make sense. She goes into her son's room and searches for something of normalcy. She finds a book of Nathan Hale where she begins reading the journal of Mercy. Oh, how Natalie needs a little 'mercy' of her own. She finds so much of herself within the pages of Mercy's journal. It's not only an escape, but a place where peace can be found. Mercy was a legacy of hope that Natalie so needed. 

I admire authors who weave a penned creation around faith. Faith is alive throughout this novel. We see the road where faith is put to life. We see that 'no matter what' kind of faith, the struggle to see God in something that feels impossible. What the reader is given is that truth lights the way. There is a great blessing in being transparent, in letting others in, and in being honest with ourselves. 

I really enjoyed the depth of this novel and the journey that Chiavaroli invites us to travel. I cannot wait to see what's next for this gifted writer. 

Happy Reading!!

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This novel was a gift from Tyndale for sharing my review with you. 

Heidi Chiabaroli is a writer, runner, and grace-clinger. Heidi writes women's fiction, exploring places that whisper of historical secrets. Her debut novel, Freedom's Ring, was a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. She makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband, two sons, and Howie, her standard poodle. Visit her online at www.heidichiavaroli.com.

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