Ugly Things We Hide
Life is a strange, twisted thing. Even when we think we have the best of intentions, everything can go all wrong. Sometimes we don’t have all the information we need; sometimes forces beyond our control sweep in and all we can do is pick up the pieces. Sometimes those forces even take the form of other people.
Dan is overall a sweet kid. In 2007, he’s vacationing in Costa Rica and runs into a girl trying to buy “crema frío.” He corrects her, telling her that ice cream in Spanish is “helado,” and she thanks him and runs off. What could have been a chance encounter becomes something more when she finds him again the next day and introduces him to two of her friends. Phoebe, the ice cream girl, and Ellen and Jesse soon become Dan’s companions for the rest of his vacation. Those few days are a portrait of four young people brought together by either fate or chance. They connect easily, as young adults often do, and when they part, it is bittersweet. Reading their connection felt like seeing the birth of a new friendship, one which will now be split apart by hundreds of miles. This, however, is friendship in the age of cell phones, where miles don’t matter quite as much as how many minutes you have on your plan.
Unfortunately, the light-hearted joy of college kids and their easy connections soon fades away. Dan returns home to tragedy, and when he is able to get his life together again, he does not return to Costa Rica or to anything that might remind him of the brief friendship that sprang up. Instead, he goes to Las Vegas, looking for new opportunities there. He’ll find more opportunities than he could have ever bargained for, but as with so many, they come with a price. He will soon be led down a path of illicit sex and drugs, one that threatens to tear him away from all he holds dear, even from himself.
Ugly Things We Hide is a stirring portrait of a young man trying to find his way in a world that seems to have no clear way forward. The language is by turns lyrical and sparse, and McIvor has a gift for presenting characters succinctly and deeply, something I once thought impossible. The characters speak for themselves rather than forcing the author to describe them, and that makes them – and the book – all the more real.
In a world full of books about young people trying to find their way, Ugly Things We Hide deserves to rise above the competition. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Chris Hayden has been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.
|Author||M. Ocampo McIvor|
|Page Count||281 pages|
|Publisher||Amazon Digital Services|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|