From the Publisher
"Hidden is not really like anything you've read before. It's no small feat for a male novelist to write in the first person voice of a female protagonist, but Paul Jaskunas has it down completely, no hint of a stutter or misstep. Ostensibly a book about a crime, it is really about the universal mystery of identity."
Anna Quindlen, Book-of-the-Month Club News
"Hidden provides both the racing pulse pleasure of a thriller and the quieter deep waters of character-driven fiction."
The Washington Post Book World
"Jaskunas creates a hauntingly intricate weave of events in his first novel, which has the quality of a fever dream....As much as Hidden is a novel of suspense, it is also an elegant exploration of vulnerability when it's seeded by guilt and loss."
New York Daily News
An Indiana woman whose world was shattered in one fateful night spends the entirety of this meditative literary debut/sleepy thriller unraveling its events. Twenty-two-year-old Maggie's crumbling marriage takes its final blow when she is beaten nearly to death in her idyllic farmhouse, and Nate, her domineering and abusive husband, is put in prison for the crime. Cross-cutting between the mid-1990s, before the assault, and the novel's present in 2002, Jaskunas weaves a complex mystery: though everything Maggie remembers about that night suggests that Nate was the perpetrator, a convict about to be released claims responsibility for the six-year-old crime. When Nate is exonerated, Maggie is thrown into a lonely spiral of self-doubt and confusion. At the heart of this insightful, atmospheric novel are the complexities of truth-how much can Maggie trust her own version of events? Jaskunas gracefully evokes the beauty of his rural Indiana setting and the town of New Harmony, where epileptic, solitary Maggie is now the "local eccentric.... the village freak," who must dig into her former life, unearthing denials she had been living all along: "I can see the spot where hung the painting of our perfect home," she says, "the lie that started all the lies." Agent, Erin Hosier. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Six years after sending her husband to jail for an attack that nearly killed her, an abused wife learns that her assailant may have been someone else. There's no doubt that for all his charm and wealth-his father is one of the premier real-estate moguls in southern Indiana, and he's a romantic who won Maggie Wilson after a whirlwind courtship-Nate Duke is too free with his hands. He's punched his bride, pulled her hair, and knocked her down in episodes that begin in shows of affection but can escalate with frightening suddenness to something else. So it's no surprise when Maggie, beaten and left for dead in the family farmhouse she shared with Nate, identifies him as the perp. Now, stunningly, a born-again prisoner slated for release includes Maggie's assault in the catalogue of crimes he's eager to confess to, adding that he'd stalked her for weeks before confronting her. Her home, her habits, her outfit, the circumstances of the night in question-he knows so many impossible details that he soon persuades the prosecutor to reverse Nate's conviction and set him free. Maggie, who's never answered any of Nate's impassioned letters from prison, forces herself to revisit the evidence, looking back over her rapidly failed marriage in the hope of figuring out what went wrong (Nate's irrepressible flirtatiousness? his father's contempt for women? Maggie's affair with the police reporter she was thrown together with as obituary editor at the local newspaper? the epilepsy that may have distorted her reactions and recollections?); at the same time, she looks forward in a strenuous attempt to imagine what will happen next if everyone else is right and the evidence of her eyes and ears and memory isreally wrong. Jaskunas's debut uses the assault not as a mystery to be solved but as a trapdoor into a suffocating nightmare of false love, delusion, and sad dreams of escape. Mystery Guild/Doubleday Book Club/Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection. Agent: Erin Hosier/Gernert Company
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Summer 1996
At three-twenty in the morning, I am unconscious on the floor, and Jacobs and Castle are coming in their car.
The almanac says there is a quarter moon. The newspapers say it is partly cloudy. The house the police car approaches is mostly dark, except for the entryway light glowing from the open door and guestroom window to the left. My neighbor, an old man in his pajamas, stands on my porch waving frantically at the car.
Entering, the officers walk around broken glass, spilled juice, an overturned wicker basket of flowers. They hustle down a hall and into the guestroom, where there is an oak bed with four brass posts. At the foot of this bed I lie on the floor, my body curled on its side. Hair covers my face, and my left foot twitches at the ankle, tapping the bedpost softly.
Castle will write in the report: "Victim wearing white nightgown, bloodied but intact."
I am proud of this room because of the bed, which I slept in as a child in my girlhood home, but most of all because of the painting by Nate's grandfather hanging on the wall. It's of our house, but more than our house. Standing before a lush forest, this gray Victorian home with its stained glass and red lattice has the gloss and glare of a vision that lacks nothing, that is complete and unified according to its own austerity and the generosity of its rooms. Out front, in the flowerbeds, marigolds bristle in the sun, and a boy and dog run through the grass. Nate says it's him, though it is hard to tell. The boy is just a few strokes of the brush.
When they find me, I am still breathing. My pulse is slow. I have three wounds.
The house around me is not so brilliant as the picture. The gray paint has blistered in the heat, and the lattice, dulled by dust, is encased in spider silk. The marigolds have since been replaced with red impatiens that all summer have suffered neglect and wilted in the hot Indiana sun. The forest behind the house hides a ravine seething with crickets. Its tangled trees, crawling with vines, hold the night in their limbs.
The first cut is a laceration an inch below my left clavicle. The second, a long tear on my upper arm. The third, a deep gash, arcs from the top of my crown to the left side of my forehead, which is pressed against the carpet when the officers arrive.
"Intruder probably entered thru front door, seized/struggled w/ victim in entryway, forced her into 1st flr. b.r. on north side of house. Victim unconscious and bleeding."
When I think of myself on the floor, I imagine myself as a little girl. I can see her curled up on her side, her face and gown softened by the moon. Her fingers innocently grope, as if for an imagined Teddy, as her foot moves gently back and forth. I don't see her blood. I don't feel the pain. She is only sleeping in the moonlight, waiting for someone to touch her and say, "Stop dreaming, Maggie. It's time to wake up."
Copyright ©2004 by Paul Jaskunas
What People are saying about this
Hidden is a joy to read: the prose, line by line, is breathtaking, the characters come alive in all their complexity, the plot drives to a conclusion both shocking and inevitable. Hidden is a truly wonderful debut.
Hidden is a shifty, low-key thriller, half Spellbound, half Daphne du Maurier.
Hidden is a page-turner: poignant and powerful. I was transfixed by the tale Paul Jaskunas has written, and haunted by Maggie Wilson, the wondrous heroine he has given us.
Good news: Paul Jaskunas is here, and he's a wonderful new voice in fiction, lyrical, smart, and frightening. Hidden moves us past mere trauma to the very heart of a woman all but murdered. We watch, spellbound, as her intelligence and sensitivity and pure grace float her back again to the world of the living, where there's a mystery to solve, and even deeper wounds to heal.
Editors for publishing houses like to compare their emerging authors to past successes: "in the tradition of Ann Tyler," or "if you like John Irving you'll love…." One of the most intriguing things about "Hidden," the first novel by Paul Jaskunas, is that it's not really like anything you've read before. Nominally it looks a little like a thriller; it starts with an attack on a woman named Maggie Wilson, who goes on to tell of how her husband went to jail on her say-so and is now likely to be freed because another man has confessed to the crime. It won't give anything away to say that by the end of the book you're still not sure who did what. That's another clue that Jaskunas is more of an original than the set-up suggests.
He's also a glorious writer. It's no small feat for a male novelist to write in the first person voice of a female protagonist, but Jaskunas has it down completely, no hint of a stutter or misstep. His sense of place is precise and exact, his evocation of the small town of New Harmony, in which Maggie is the "local eccentric," as beautifully wrought as the word picture of the farmhouse in which she and her husband settle and the newspaper office where she works. And while this is ostensibly a book about a crime, it is really about the universal mystery of identity. Driving alone through "chapped, windblown intersections," letting her home go until she moves "through the filth like a resentful guest," the unmoored Maggie seeks not only the answer to the question of who beat her unconscious but how she ever managed to get to this place to begin with.
This remarkable debut novel from a fine young writer deals on a high level with issues of memory, love, and guilt.