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The Ways We Hide


The Ways We Hide

From Kristina McMorris, the bestselling author of SOLD ON A MONDAY, comes THE WAYS WE HIDE, a sweeping, action-packed novel about a female illusionist tasked with devising techniques for the Allies to evade Nazi capture in World War II…and then wading into enemy territory herself.

By the time the Second World War begins, Fenna Vos has become disillusioned by tragedy. Growing up in Michigan’s Copper Country as the daughter of a widowed miner, Fenna’s first brush with tragedy happened with the death of her mother in childbirth, but her second was far more memorable: a reimagining of the 1913 Italian Hall Disaster. As Fenna and dozens of other children of miners are celebrating a hard-fought, rare Christmas, a pro-management worker cries out that there is a fire in the building and only one way to exit. As everyone rushes to the lone door, a stampede ensues; 58 children and 11 adults do not make it out alive.

"Epic in scope and breathless in pace, THE WAYS WE HIDE is World War II fiction for the reader who has read every angle of the war and still longs for more, as well as for the reader who is only just beginning to dive into the historical fiction genre."

Separated from her aloof and often drunk father, Fenna survives thanks to her year-older neighbor, Arie Jansen, a fellow Dutch, but a Protestant and therefore deemed the polar opposite of Fenna and her Catholic father. Though their friendship starts on shaky ground, the two soon become a great comfort to one another as they work through the trauma of survivor’s guilt and the sparse conditions of life with miners. When Arie leaves word that his father has gotten a job elsewhere and he and his family will be gone by morning, Fenna thinks her world is over. And then her father dies, a victim of poor working conditions met with pneumonia.

From there, Fenna finds herself an orphan and then an orphanage escapee. Through it all, magic --- and an idolatry of Harry Houdini --- sustains her. When we meet Fenna, she is a magician’s assistant closing out a show in bustling 1942 New York City. But she is not some leggy mouthpiece; she is, in fact, the brains of her partner’s magical operation, and the one who devises each of their clever schemes, builds schematics of their rigged entrapments, and keeps her magician --- goofy party boy Charlie --- on a tight leash. Unfortunately, their dynamic has been suffering from jealousy and inequality. After a terrible fight, Fenna assures herself against all hope that she and Charlie will make up. And then a stranger follows her home.

Fenna is approached by Christopher Clayton Hutton, a British intelligence officer with an unimaginable offer: he has correctly determined that Fenna is the mastermind behind the the magic act. He wants her to put her genius to the test by helping him design escape-and-evasion gadgets for airmen, prisoners of war and others covertly fighting for the cause of the Allies. Her work will bring her to England, where air raids are as common as teatime and the war that she has thus far avoided comes creepingly close. But it also allows her, for the first time, to take credit for her work, to explore the far reaches of her mind and toy around with gadgets that amplify the skill she holds most dear: illusion.

Little does Fenna know that her journey across the Atlantic will not only thrust her into the present, it will put her face to face with her past when she reunites with Arie, now an intelligence officer on the run after potentially selling out his cell. Desperate to fix the errors of her youth and mend the heart she once broke, Fenna sets out to prove Arie’s innocence once and for all, using her grit and determination…but most importantly, her mastery of sleight of hand and trickery. As a covert agent, a magician sounds like a joke at first --- a clown running for office --- yet, as McMorris shows, there’s no better magician for the task at hand.

At a whopping 496 pages, THE WAYS WE HIDE spans the years 1928 to 1943 and is packed with espionage and endless twists. The action alone --- from run-ins with the Gestapo to covert meetings with shady informants --- would be enough to fill these pages, but McMorris still dedicates time and keen emotional insight into the development of her characters. Full of grief and guilt, Fenna often believes herself to be untouchable. However, as she immerses herself deeper and deeper into the war efforts, she finds a new well of emotion, a discovery that forces her to adapt and evolve just as she does on stage, but now internally. Where she once felt extreme survivor’s guilt, the Fenna that arrives on occupied soil must ask herself if she has been spared again and again to “attain justice for the victims of a cruel and callous enemy.” More importantly, in a tragedy of many, if you can save even one life, is it worth the cost? As she demonstrates, it certainly is.

Epic in scope and breathless in pace, THE WAYS WE HIDE is World War II fiction for the reader who has read every angle of the war and still longs for more, as well as for the reader who is only just beginning to dive into the historical fiction genre. Whatever your comfort level, background or knowledge, this book will educate, inspire and awaken you. It also just might convince you of the magic behind the illusions.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 16, 2022

The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris