Reviews for Hidden Place
"Intriguing and absorbing. Shiflett has a powerful eye for characters and how the stubbornness, vanity, and fears of ordinary people can precipitate a descent into hell . . . Story-telling of the highest order."
— Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting
Included in Library Journal's "Summer Highs, Fall Firsts," a 2004 list of "most successful debuts."
"With its exploration of racism, American jingoism, dysfunctional families, and lost love, this work is moving, suspenseful, funny, thoughtful, and sad. It will appeal to a wide range of readers..."
— Library Journal
"I'm trying to decide whether Shawn Shiflett's Hidden Place reminds me more of Shakespearean tragedy or film noire or a plain, old scary movie. It's a powerful love story, which is good enough, but when his Seventies version of Romeo and Juliet jet off to Mexico... well, it's like the part in the horror film where the ingenue goes down into the dark basement. And it's truly dark down there, what with mean drunks, corrupt cops, sadomasochistic sociopaths and enlightened capitalistas you can trust ... maybe. But Shiflett's characters and situation are too complex for easy stereotype. His star-crossed lovers have to grapple with history and culture—there are serious questions asked here. And the moral issues of this tale make Hidden Place much more than a fast-moving, sexy retro-romance-adventure. It's rollicking romance about important issues. It is—say this softly—literature."
— David Bradley, author of The Chaneysville Incident, winner of the Penn Faulker Award
"... There are many big moments in this novel, but Shiflett also shines in the small details that define the locations where they take place: the Escondido beach, the little town with restaurants and stores, and the mountainous hidden place of the title. But especially Chicago... Shiflett's novel takes Roman on the adventure of traveling in an unfamiliar country with the hope of escaping the burden of his own values and beliefs. In that grand American tradition of finding self-definition in the landscape, Roman gives it his best effort. Shiflett's novel, in its big and small moments, is worth an effort as well."
— JoAnne Ruvoli, Other Voices
"Columbia College professor Shawn Shiflett's debut work, Hidden Place, begins as a love story but ends so much larger, like a swelling eye socket after a punch to the head. . . . As literary and cerebral as it is an entertaining page-turner, the novel makes the same choices you would if it were a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. Just nod your head and move along."
— Tom Lynch, NewCity Newspaper, Chicago
"Probably the most frightening thing in the world is to be in a foreign country and find yourself swept up in something that you have nothing to do with, and where you are the minority... I couldn't put your [Shiflett's] book [Hidden Place] down... I loved reading it... There's a good movie in here."
— Connie Martinson Talks Books, national cable television, U.K. and Ireland
-- “. . . ample action and conflict . . . juicy story . . .. Set in 1976, long before ‘political correctness’ . . . investigates America’s might and arrogance toward its southern neighbor [Mexico].”
— Publishers Weekly
"Hidden Place is illuminated by a white hot light that emanates from both the beautiful prose and the characters who inhabit Shawn Shiflett's remarkable story. It is a light we follow to a deeper understanding of love and desire, and the accomodations we must make with our own exquisite failings."
— Don Snyder, author of Fallen Angel and Of Time and Memory
"...what makes this page-turner resonate with the reader long after the novel ends is the narrative distance Shiflett sets as Roman tells his story. It's close enough to the events to render all the details, but with enough maturity to recognize and admit his hidden weaknesses."
— Julia Borcherts, Chicago Life Magazine (New York Times)
"The startlingly savage yet satisfying resolution and bittersweet denouément illustrate that even doing the right thing has repercussions, and that in stories mirroring life's reality there are rarely such absolutes as happily-ever-after. Shiflett writes free-swinging prose that propels the story at a page-burning clip... In the end, Hidden Place is like a literary trip in a fast car over the ungoverned roads surrounding towns like Escondido... mostly broad stretches of light-drenched, exhilarating ride with some fascinating memories to revisit long after the last page is turned."
— Bryan A. Bushemi, Third Coast Press
"Shiflett tells a sad and painful story bringing the dangers of ignorance and arrogant racism up close and personal. Hidden Place is an appealing tale, moving, suspenseful, funny and self-searching. Read it with an open mind."
— Mina Diamos, NoHo LA
"Shiflett takes us on a rollercoaster ride of relationship dysfunction and self exploration. Along the ride, he serves up a great dose of humour, and at times, unexpected horror. In short, I found myself unable to put the book down. It is well-constructed, has great character studies, reads like a good film, and included moments of beauty. (The titular chapter actually brought me to tears). Hidden Place is a great read. I highly recommend it."
— Angelina Young, CJSF * 90.1 FM, Vancouver
"A fast-paced, page-turning literary thriller, set in a small Mexican town where a pair of young lovers on a shoestring vacation find themselves walking a tightrope between old values and new realities. Shawn Shiflett has written a first-rate first novel: bold, brash, and utterly unforgettable."
— A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill, an Oprah Book Club selection
"Shawn Shiflett gives us the story, but Mila and Roman give us themselves, the way it is that human life, especially youth, is like a field of wildflowers. They buzz. They sting. Not a nicey-nice flat fairy tale golf course. The author resists taming his characters, lets them burn in the brambles, in the heat of Mexico. He gives us Life and Place, both wild and familiar. They grow and they learn. We grow and we learn."
— Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine
"An important book. This is a universal story that will appeal to all audiences.... Shiflett brilliantly melds literary concerns with page-turning suspense. The result is an absolute knockout."
— Don De Grazia, author of American Skin
"Down-to-earth, realistic characters and a well-crafted narrative create a multi-layered south-of-the-border culture clash. With gritty realism, Shawn Shiflett captures both the funky lifestyles of the vacationing American college students, and the stark poverty and class structure of the coastal Mexican villagers they "invade." A haunting coming-of-age story."
— Valerie Wilson Wesley, author of Always True to You in My Fashion and the Tamara Hale mysteries
"Hidden Place has, in its Norte Americano and Mexican players, some of the most three-dimensional—tempted to say four-dimensional—stand-up-and-walk-on-their-own characters to be found in contemporary fiction. When you catch your breath at the end of this one-of-a-kind story, you will feel that you understand much more clearly American's mighty, but still and yet ambiguous place in the world."
— John Schultz, author of No One Was Killed
"[Hidden Place] is bloody brilliant. . . It concerns the adventures of two young Americans in the seventies on a trip to Escondido in Mexico. It's worth buying just for the section in which the hero meets his girlfriend's parents for the first time, which is hilarious. The two main characters are immensely appealing and even the bad guys are not without charm. . . the book has plenty to say about the nature of tourism and the Yankee dollar too. . . "
— The Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha, Wales, U.K.
"The scene is reminiscent of Mexican painter Orozco's Man of Flames ... The narration throughout Hidden Place is Roman's fresh voice, sometimes choked with a salty wave of emotion at the injustice or a gift from an Indian child. Roman's young innocence has been chipped by a sharp chisel in Mexico."
— Mary Alexander Walker, Small Press Review, Paradise, CA
"Shiflett writes with a complexity and originality that enrich this novel on every page. He writes of love, faith, fidelity and passion with an astute, page-turning rawness. You close this book feeling slightly battered by the chaos and emotional power Shiflett commands so authoratively... clearly Hidden Place is the advent of a thrilling new voice in American literature."
— Antonia R. Logue, author of Shadow-Box
"Hidden Place is a book that might appeal to someone who just reads for escapism (not usually what I'm looking for), but that is actually much deeper than that. It may be that the fact that I had recently reread Catcher in the Rye before reading Hidden Place had some influence on my reaction to the book. Roman seemed to me to be a modern day Holden Caulfield."
— Rebecca Stuhr, Collection Development Librarian, Grinnell College
"Shawn Shiflett's Hidden Place captures the daring and risk taking that are intrinsic to being young and how these virtues can so easily careen dangerously out of control, especially in places where the cultural and social codes are foreign. His characterizations of Roman and Mila are done with unblinking honesty. The events leading to murder made for one of most hair-raising sequences I've read in recent memory."
— Wesley Brown, author of Tragic Magic