Ugly Things We Hide

Reviewed by Amy Gruzesky

This short novel by M. Ocampo McIvor will take you on a journey that will have you feeling happy, sad, reminiscent, confused and indignant, and will do it all through the story of Daniel, a twenty-something surfer we meet when he is on a trip to Costa Rica.

But we know from the prologue at the beginning of this book that this is not just going to be a story about youthful indiscretions or dalliances. This story will get more serious and more twisted, so I encourage readers to continue through some of the early parts of the book that do get a tad tedious and depressing. The story really does pick up in the second half, and as a whole, is definitely worth reading.

Inspired by a true story about a Texas boy and his mother, I think every reader will find a piece of themselves in at least one or more of the characters McIvor introduces you to, if not several of them, or the main character, Daniel.

Daniel’s story takes us from Costa Rica, where he meets Phoebe, a young woman he will never be able to forget, back to his home in Hawaii and then onto Las Vegas, and eventually prison. Daniel is not an innocent and has made some bad choices, but his character is written in such a way that you will find yourself feeling some sympathy for him.

In fact, it is his imperfection and mix of good and bad traits, as well as what you witness him going through from the time you are introduced to him, that draw you into his story and will make you realize we are all a patchwork of good and bad, restrained and unrestrained, and molded by our life circumstances and what we have lived through. And, we all have things about ourselves that we hide from the rest of the world. So, I guess you could say, there is a bit of Daniel in all of us. And that is what makes this book relatable.

Despite the fact that Daniel does bad things, because you know his back story and who he was and has the potential to be, you can’t help but like him, or, at the very least, feel some compassion toward him.

There is also another component at work here, and that is the habits and lifestyles of wealthy and powerful individuals, who have an influence on Daniel and lead him down the path he ends up taking; and, it could be argued, are somewhat to blame for what he ends up doing and becoming. In that regard, this book also holds a mirror up to society. Which gives readers something else to consider and ruminate on.

Overall, despite the spoiler provided in the prologue, and, some slow parts in the first half of the novel, this is a book that, once finished, I feel will leave readers feeling satisfied, as well as a bit reflective.

P.S. After a well-written prologue, and a satisfying second half, I found myself pondering why I found some parts of this book to be slow; or, in some instances, even a bit boring. And, it made me wonder — perhaps the author intended it that way, as she was trying to show us how Daniel evolved from the youthful guy we meet at the beginning of the book to the man we come to know by its end. She wanted us to be part of Daniel’s journey so we could get an uncompromised and complete view of him and the totality of who he is as a person.

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