Author: Matthew Griffin
Publisher: Audible Studios
Narrator: Sean Runnette
Wendell and Frank meet at the end of World War II, when Frank returns home to their North Carolina town. Soon he’s loitering around Wendell’s taxidermy shop, and the two come to understand their connection as love—a love that, in this time and place, can hold real danger. Cutting nearly all ties with the rest of the world, they make a home for themselves on the outskirts of town, a string of beloved dogs for company. Wendell cooks, Frank cares for the yard, and together they enjoy the vicarious drama of courtroom TV.
But when Wendell finds Frank lying outside among their tomatoes at the age of eighty-three, he feels a new threat to their careful self-reliance. As Frank’s physical strength and his memory deteriorate, the two of them must fully confront the sacrifices they’ve made for each other—and the impending loss of the life they’ve built.
Tender, gently funny, and gorgeously rendered, Hide is a love story of rare power.
Over the past few years, Audible Studios has been batting a thousand when it comes to producing out-of-the-ordinary audiobooks. Hide is no exception.
Besides the fully-developed rough and tumble main characters, I enjoyed the author’s no-nonsense writing style; that’s the way it is, and we’ll need to deal with it. Having said that, you might think that no emotives are stirred in this full-length novel. Wrong! (Thanks to “The Donald,” the foolish horse’s ass, for bringing back that one-word declarative.) You’ll laugh, cry, and find yourself infuriated over the treatment of and cures rendered to gay men prior to the US Supreme Court’s 1976 holding that state sodomy laws were unconstitutional between consenting adults. Prior to that landmark decision, gay men were subjected to imprisonment, institutionalization, painful diversion therapies (covering men in ice for hours, attaching electrodes to genitalia), castrations, ECTs, frontal lobotomies – and those were the legal cures for homosexuality. I needn’t mention redneck mob cures. So, Wendell and Frank buy a house surrounded by trees out in the sticks to hide themselves and their love from everyone, including family and coworkers. They pretty much have only each other when it comes to friends. But they drive separate cars when they go to the farmers’ market “together,” and grab separate carts, each carrying half their shopping list, while at the supermarket. They secretly live together for nearly sixty years; until Frank suffers a stroke.
I enjoyed the narrator’s ability to attach differing voices to two same-aged Southern men. The characters’ voices decidedly fit the setting.
There are a couple of scenes that some readers may find unsettling. But if you’re reading this genre, you’re supposed to be wearing your big boy/big girl panties. The author accurately depicts some of life’s realities following a CVA (stroke).
This isn’t a romantic tale with a happy ending; rather, it ends with hope, and I enjoy that variation to the standard, cookie-cutter romance. Highly recommended reading/listening.