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About The Book

As unnerving as it is mesmerizing, Hidden is an evocative, emotionally charged domestic drama -- a willful and traumatized woman's painful search for the truth about the man who assaulted her one summer night.

Six years after the attack, Maggie Wilson receives a call from the prosecutor who helped put her husband in jail after Maggie identified him as the man who nearly killed her. Told that another inmate has confessed to the crime and that her ex-husband will be freed, the shock plunges Maggie into memories of her stormy marriage to Nate Duke, the ambitious heir to a real estate company. Secluded in an old farmhouse that was her marital home, Maggie relives her marriage to Nate and his abusive treatment of her. But in her present, a very different man is haunting her -- the born-again convict who has confessed to the crime. As his story competes with hers, Maggie pores through trial transcripts, old journals, and photo albums, trying fruitlessly to remember exactly what happened.

Written in spare, elegant prose, Paul Jaskunas's novel reads like a waking dream as Maggie is torn by the question -- was it Nate? Or was it this stranger who seems to know intimate details? And what will it cost her to discover the truth? A work of searing suspense written in the heroine's brave voice, Hidden is ultimately about a woman confronting the betrayal of her body and the ambiguity of her mind.


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

Reading Group Guide

Reader's Group Guide for Hidden
1) What are Maggie's main characteristics? How does her personality differ between the time before the attack and after?
2) Describe Nathan and Maggie's relationship both before and after their marriage. Do you feel that theirs is an equal partnership? What affect does life in her new home have on Maggie?
3) Why does Maggie return to the house where her attack took place? What are her main reasons for retrieving all the documents pertaining to the case?
4) Describe Carson and Maggie's relationship. What are Carson's feelings toward Maggie and are they truly reciprocated? Why do you think Maggie begins seeing him outside of work?
5) Both Nate and Maggie change significantly throughout their marriage. What are the major changes? How do these changes affect their marriage? What causes them to take the actions they do? What is your overall opinion of Nate?
6) What do you think are Maggie's main reasons for returning home after leaving spontaneously? What does her decision reveal about her character and state of mind?
7) Discuss Ben Hodge's character. How does the inclusion of both his background and his version of the attack on Maggie affect her? Why does he become obsessed with Maggie? Does his confession change your view of Nate?
8) Describe the character of Dick Duke. How does Maggie feel about him? What kind of relationship does he share with his son?
9) What is the nature of Manny and Maggie's relationship? Why do you think he invites her to drive cross country with him?
10) During the summer of 2002, Maggie experiences a transformation of sorts. What happens to her, psychologically and emotionally? What is the significance of the paintings she creates? What prompts Maggie to finally leave the house and the confines of the town?
11) Memory is an ever present theme throughout the novel. Discuss how memory plays an integral role in Maggie's story. In what ways does memory affect the characters in the novel?
12) What is the significance of the title Hidden?

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Raised in Indiana, Paul Jaskunas took degrees at Oberlin College and Cornell University. A recent recipient of a Fulbright fellowship and grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, he has written for The Chicago Tribune, The American Lawyer, Commonweal, and other publications. Mr. Jaskunas lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife, Solveiga. This is his first novel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Free Press (December 1, 2009)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781439104439

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Raves and Reviews

"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

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