A History of the Matanuska Valley wrapped up in Fiction

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I love historical fiction that succeeds at weaving real people, real events, and real places into an intriguing narrative.  “All Things Hidden” was a good effort, though the story fell short of that elusive quality that makes an excellent novel.  What I did like about this book was the setting and background.  The history of the colonization of the Matanuska Valley in Alaska is fascinating and the authors very ably described the courageous, pioneering spirit of those who settled what are now the towns of Palmer and Wasilla, Alaska.  I thought authors Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse did a great job conveying the history (i.e., the accomplishments and the flaws) of the Matanuska colonization, which was part of FDR’s New Deal- the federal effort aimed at America’s recovery from the Great Depression.  They were able to communicate the importance of one’s attitude in facing hardships and challenges, and the difference that a positive or negative outlook can make.  They also brought out some great spiritual insights (the importance of prayer, trusting God, and forgiveness) in a very natural way.

What this story lacked was gripping characterization and plot.  The main characters, Gwyn and Jeremiah were too contrived and their attributes overstated; within the first few pages Gwyn is clearly and redundantly depicted as an obsessive worrier who fears change and is defined by her mother’s abandonment of her.  Her perpetual anxiety and stream-of thought insecurities becomes a little annoying.  Jeremiah, the other main character, in just a few paragraphs loses his reputation, his career, and his fiancée and can therefore never trust another woman again.  His story felt too rushed and his outlook on life and women very cliché.  He also, predictably, cannot bring himself to be honest about his past with Gwyn.  Their blossoming romance is also forced, as they go from having very little interaction or relationship to somehow falling in love with each other.

The twist in this story is the villain, Clarence; a successful, and therefore rich, thief who for some reason ends up hiding in poverty in the highly publicized and photographed Matanuska Project rather than in the anonymity of his wealth in Europe or the South Pacific.  For also obscure reasons, he becomes obsessed with Gwyn.  The element of suspense and intrigue that Clarence and his wicked schemes lend to the book was a good idea and definitely added to the plot, but the reason for his obsession with Gwyn and his propensity to engage in evil at all times only contributed to the feeling that the characters in this novel were overly contrived and served to make the plot too predictable.

I enjoyed this book because I’m easy-to-please and I love history wrapped up in fiction, but I can’t put “All Things Hidden” on my list of all time favorites.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Bethany House Publishers.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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