Filled with fascinating historical details, Chiavaroli’s second novel (after Freedom’s Ring) once again connects two women through an artifact of the past. This heartrending tale will engage aficionados of the American Revolution and historical fiction.
4.5 star top pick. Chiavaroli’s latest timeslip novel does not disappoint. Both storylines are fully developed with strong character development, and they are seamlessly woven together. This is such an emotional tale, particularly the contemporary side, that it’s hard to put down the book without reading a few more chapters first. Relevant topics are addressed in a sensitive, yet realistic way. The story unfolds via alternating POVs (Natalie, Maelynn, and Mercy). It’s hard not to place yourself in the characters’ shoes and wonder what you would do in their situation. Yet through it all, the reader is able to see that God is still there in the midst of all the brokenness.
Chiavaroli’s all-too-timely, two-era novel asks when it is right to keep secrets and when it is right to divulge them. This page-turner, though weak on historical authenticity, will appeal to readers looking for fiction that explores Christian values and belief under tragic circumstances.
The historical intrigue of Revolutionary War New York parallels the all-too-familiar modern nightmare of a high school shooting in Heidi Chiavaroli’s compelling The Hidden Side, a novel about tragedy, faith, and personal courage.
The past meets the present through these intriguing parallel tales. The common link is Long Island, New York, once the site of British invasion and colonial rebellion—the latter involving outright resistance along with more covert and subversive tactics.
From its historical perspective, The Hidden Side follows Mercy Howard, a young Long Island woman whose fiancé, Nathan Hale, has just been hanged for espionage. Hale would later be regarded as one of America’s first great patriots. Having witnessed his death, Mercy vows to help overthrow the enemy British forces and, despite the danger involved, joins a secret ring of spies.
In the modern plotline, Long Islander Natalie Abbott cohosts a radio program offering faith-based guidance to troubled listeners. Like many mothers of teens, Natalie has issues with her high-school twins, Chris and Maelynn, and does her best to balance her work and family. Things are jolted into crisis mode, however, when Maelynn is nearly among the victims of a local school shooting—and Chris is the shooter.
With the school tragedy, the novel skillfully ventures into raw and unnerving territory. Beyond the actual event, Natalie endures Chris’s arrest and trial, the searching of her home by law enforcement, a media onslaught, and hatred from many of her neighbors for her son’s actions. She also agonizes over missed signs that her son was the victim of bullying and that his repressed rage could turn homicidal.
Both halves of The Hidden Side are singularly compelling, with more of a fine threading between stories than an obvious connection. There is also the shared message that even during times of spiritual darkness, with prayer and hope, forgiveness and new beginnings are always possible.
A journal from 1776 comforts a radio host going through family strife in the present day in Chiavaroli’s second time-jump tale set during the Revolutionary War (after Freedom’s Ring). Three women form the center of this harrowing tale, all facing the dire consequences of keeping secrets from loved ones. Natalie Abbott, a radio personality who comforts and counsels listeners in need of advice, goes through her own family trauma when her son, Chris, shoots several people, killing three, at his high school. Chris’s twin, Maelynn, faces her brother as he takes aim, yet he spares her—a moment that brings intense guilt she must grapple with for the rest of her life. Jumping back nearly 300 years, the novel turns to Mercy Howard, who becomes a spy in Loyalist Manhattan after her fiancé is hanged by the British at the outset of the Revolutionary War. As Mercy navigates treacherous New York, she keeps a journal of her secret life. Although separated by centuries, the violence and angst that surround Mercy comfort Natalie during her own period of trauma as she struggles with regret, low self-confidence, and wavering commitment to her faith. Readers already interested in time-slip novels will enjoy the emotional journey of Chiavaroli’s heroines, but those looking for a more seamless plot will become frustrated with the abrupt switching of perspectives.
The Hidden Side is a beautiful tale that captures the timeless struggles of the human heart. Exploring both contemporary and historical relationships, Chiavaroli has woven two worlds together seamlessly. With lyrical depth, she has delivered a story that is particularly relatable to parents who are struggling to guide teenagers through today’s tumultuous climate.
Heidi Chiavaroli has written another poignant novel that slips between a heart-wrenching present-day story and a tragic one set during the Revolutionary War. The Hidden Side explores the raw humanness of characters who are confronted with unimaginable sorrow and the secrets they keep to protect themselves and the people they love.
Heidi Chiavaroli excels at bringing the raw emotions of characters to life, in drawing real-life conflict onto the page. The Hidden Side is a brilliant portrayal of our country’s worst modern-day nightmare and the struggles of its traumatic birth. Two stories, two timelines woven and connected through pain and redemption. A stunning novel, not to be missed.