Having enjoyed two of Linda Leith Publishing’s recent titles (Hutchison Street and The Philistine) I picked up Ariela Freedman’s newest novel, A Joy to be Hidden hoping the quality of writing would be sustained. A few pages in, and I was entirely hooked into reading it. While her protagonist Alice Stein is likeable, it is Ms. Freedman’s intimate description of a corner of New York City in the late 90s that makes A Joy to be Hidden a real joy to read. If you could judge how much I savoured a book from the number of pages I have bookmarked, then A Joy to Be Hidden ranks high on the all-time list here at The Miramichi Reader. My first bookmark appears just four pages in. Alice has been delegated the unenviable task of cleaning out her grandmother’s apartment after her death:
Everyone should have to clear out an apartment after the death of the owner. It is a stoic exercise. Nothing else will convince you as quickly of the futility of stuff, the absurdity of the accumulation of objects, and the vanity of ownership. Because almost everything in that house was trash.
“Almost,” for Alice finds a small purse in the back of a closet containing 10 one-ounce gold coins and a ring with a fire opal surrounded by diamonds. These Alice keeps for herself since she is the only one who knows about them. There is also a black and white photo of a man with the name “Oliver” written on it, in an envelope with a New Mexico return address. This is all a mystery to Alice, who never knew her grandmother to leave Brooklyn. All of this occurs in the Prologue; there are 250 plus pages yet to go until you (regrettably) finish this excellent novel of undergrad Alice, precocious little Persephone, her grandmother’s childhood friend Bella and Alice’s quest for resolution about her grandmother’s hidden past. There are many hidden things — people and places, even Alice herself — to be discovered in A Joy to Be Hidden. Quill & Quire called Ariela Freedman “an exceptionally good writer,” which is an assessment I wholly agree with. I am adding A Joy to Be Hidden to my 2019 longlist for a “The Very Best!” Book Awards for Fiction.
A Joy to Be Hidden by Ariela Freedman
Linda Leith Publishing
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