In January 2010 on December 31, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Photo by Lisa Guidarini

Book Review: The Hidden by Tobias Hill

Lisa Damian Kidder

The HiddenThe Hidden is a haunting mystery novel written by award-winning writer Tobias Hill. Seamlessly shifting back and forth between research notes on ancient Sparta and a present day archeological dig in Greece, the story’s main character, Ben Mercer, flees his failed marriage and his academic life at Oxford. He first finds himself in Athens, taking a job at the Metamorphosis meat grill, where he hopes to lose himself amidst the hard work and anonymity at this local dive far off the beaten path. However, tensions at the restaurant appear to possess an undercurrent of chaos that seems on the verge of erupting into potential violence. As the name implies, Metamorphosis is merely a place of transition for Ben, before he eventually seeks out a job at an archeological dig site taking place at the location where the former Sparta once existed.

With themes reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, the Spartan dig and the group of archeologists are not all that they would appear on the surface. Struggling between feeling like an outsider and wanting to belong to something greater than himself, Ben is forced to weigh his morals and his sense of self against his desire to be a part of this elite group. As his academic notes on Spartan history begin to descend into less research and more of a labyrinth of his own self reflections, Ben learns that some secrets may be better left hidden.

Hill does a fine job of escalating the story to its inevitable sinister ending. The characters are both representations of the old Spartan legends as well as friends and foes. They’re fearful, alluring, unattainable, flawed, stark, and dark all at once. Though the story itself is a bit circuitous at times, the pleasure of reading this book is in the writing style itself. It comes as no surprise that Tobias Hill is also a poet. His lyrical prose and observations about the most simple or the most grand of settings make the reader feel a part of the dusty behind-the-tours Greece, as if you could not only visualize it but reach out and touch it.

Olive trees silver in the last sun. Olive trunks full of lumps and rumps, love handles, sumo thighs, double chins, breasts and warts and genitals, whittled slits, murder holes, clefts and crevices, wingbones and filigrees. Olive groves full of secret things: car wrecks, gypsies and horses, shoulders of ruin.

Be an Eagle

Jen Yeakey

It was a cold morning and I was snug and warm in my bed hitting the snooze button again and again, not wanting to get out from under my blankets.  I only succeeded in getting a late start, which would not have been a start at all, were it not for the anticipation of a piping hot shower. But before I had even worked up a lather, the hot water ran out.

Okay, so no more hot water, at least I was clean and ready for the next step to my morning. While making my way to the kitchen, I stubbed my toe on a dog chew bone and said sarcastically to myself, this is going to be a great day.  Seeing how nothing else was working in my favor, I thought fresh-brewed coffee should do the trick and wouldn’t you know it; I was out of coffee. No biggie, I thought, I can swing through McDonalds- they have good coffee and it’s on the way.  I was trying to stay positive, but I couldn’t help thinking in my head that this was going to be a bad day. As it turned out, my snooze button-induced delay, coupled with abnormally bad traffic, cancelled out any time I had to swing in for a coffee without being late to work. Wonderful!

I repeated the old adage “you can start your day over at any time” like a mantra, trying to make myself believe it was true. Then I remembered an email that a friend sent to me just the day before. It was perfect for what I was going through:  “If you get up in the morning expecting to have a bad day, you’ll rarely disappoint yourself.” The email went on to quote a radio personality, “Stop complaining! Differentiate yourself from your competition. Don’t be a duck. Be an eagle. Ducks quack and complain. Eagles soar above the crowd.”  And it was in that moment I remembered all that I have going for me and all that I have accomplished so far in life. I don’t want to be a duck. I want to be an eagle!

Complaining takes too much energy; it accomplishes nothing, yet still leaves you exhausted at the end of the day. Soaring above the crowd trying to be a bright spot to yourself and someone else, on the other hand, gives you a high like no other drug can or ever will. Not to mention at the end of the day when you lay your head on the pillow, thanking God for giving you one more day, and drift off to sleep, your rest is so much more peaceful.

I try to remember that no matter how bad of a day I may think I am having, there is always someone who has it so much worse than I. And that whatever it is that has my feathers in a ruffle will soon pass. It certainly won’t matter at the end of my life. It may not even matter enough to worry about by the end of the day.

Life is a precious gift and if we spend all our time acting like a duck, quacking and complaining, then what we are essentially doing is pooping all over the day. After all, that is what ducks do while walking, is it not? When I choose to soar like an eagle, I am more apt to find the positive in all that went wrong. Such as: I probably needed that extra few minutes in bed this morning, the majority of my shower was warm, not ice cold, I could stand to cut back on my caffeine intake, my toe was not broken from the dog bone  and I still made it to work on time.

Start doing little things everyday to soar like an eagle. Tell someone to have a GREAT day as you exit the elevator. Tell yourself you’re going to have a great day and don’t let minor calamities deter you. It is little things like this that will set you apart from the rest and have you up and flying high above the crowd before you even realize you are not pooping on the day anymore.

%d bloggers like this: