A Hidden Place
Sometimes I judge a book by its cover and if the cover appeals to me but I know nothing about the story or the author I may still purchase and read it. That is what happened with this book, “A Hidden Place.” I had not of the author, Robert Charles Wilson, and I never even read the back of the book it was purely the title and cover which intrigued me.
The story began with a group of homeless men traveling in box cars, wondering where their next meal would come from and trying to stay away from the police. The influential character in this segment was a man named Bone. A name he wasn’t sure how he came to have as his own, but knew it was given to him and so he kept it. He was tall, oddly shaped and a bit scary looking. His joints and bones and proportions were all out of whack, he almost didn’t look human.
When it came to running from the law the other homeless men would normally let Bone take the brunt of the beatings. If he lives they’d proclaim him their hero, if he died they would take his coat and shoes. It was brutal. Two hobos in particular, Deacon and Archie, ended up recruiting Bone into their little clique purely for his strength. They went on a crime spree of sorts and the reason to include Bone was because no one would remember their faces if he was around. Eventually Bone realized he was being used, but it seemed to take awhile.
The further you get into the story the more you wonder about Bone. Why he acts the way he does. He talks about a sickness, he talks about a calling but he isn’t sure what either element refers to in his world. It’s all quite odd.
Until you get into the other part of this story where we meet Travis, his aunt and uncle, their attic renter Anna and townie girl Nancy. Not that things get any less odd, but they sort of all seem to follow the same strange theme. And in this part of the story it would be Anna that seemed to be the misfit. Except unlike Bone, Anna is incredibly beautiful, but equally as lost.
Travis came to live with his aunt and uncle after his Mom died. They took him in, but not exactly happily. In fact his Uncle treated him like dirt from the very beginning, because Travis’s Mom lived in sin. So when Travis learned that his Uncle was raping Anna in the attic each night he resented the situation even more and he vowed to help Anna. In comes Nancy, a girl who works in a restaurant and befriends Travis boldly one afternoon. They end up working together to save Anna.
Little did anyone know, Anna is not human. Anna is from another world altogether and she and Bone need to find each other, reconnect and be on their way before they both die. This twist gets thrown into the mix rather suddenly and unexpectedly. I suppose if I had known it was a science fiction book I wouldn’t have been surprised, but truthfully I didn’t know and the first several chapters of the book made no mention of anything sci-fi in nature.
Well Nancy never strays from wanting to help Anna, but Travis does. He is afraid of her and he doesn’t believe she means no harm. Plus she claims to be able to mirror his image of a woman and it happens to be she mirrors his dead Mom, which of course would be hard to take. Eventually though he realizes if he doesn’t help then she will die and seeing as how he lost his Mom once he wouldn’t want to be the reason he loses someone so in tune with her.
Anna tells Travis that Bone is near, but he is dying and she needs Travis to go find him and bring him to her. She describes a scene where she knows he is and Travis goes to find him. She explains Bone has been betrayed, wounded and deeply mistreated and will not trust Travis until he knows he can.
Another strange thing that happens is that the men of the town end up getting together with the idea of killing the homeless people out near the train field. I don’t understand how this came to be, I read it, but it still doesn’t make a bit of sense.
So on the way back to Anna, Travis and Bone see the town’s men with their guns and their torches and they realize just how down to the wire they are. As Bone gets closer to the place they have been hiding Anna he seems to get stronger. Both he and Anna glow with a blue aura that no one else can see except for Travis and Nancy. The blue glow is what helps them find each other.
I admit it doesn’t make sense, it’s all quite bizarre but it eventually all does come together even if in a very bumpy manner. And I loved the book, I was sad to be done. If you’re open minded and enjoy sci-fi stories than you’ll like this book. I’m looking forward to reading more from Robert Charles Wilson.