Traumatised by the death of a patient in her chair, Glaswegian dentist Radha Bakshi succumbs to an addiction to Valium she can’t acknowledge – even to herself.
The pills take the edge off trying to be a consummate professional, a perfect daughter, a devoted wife and a not-too-embarrassing mother to her teenage son.
When increased scrutiny of her work forces her to find a new source of supply, she stumbles into the menacing clutches of blackmailing drug dealers.
A mistake that could cost her everything.
Hi and welcome to my review of What I Hid From You!
Massive thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for the invite and to Heleen Kist for the eARC.
After In Servitude (silver medal for Best European Fiction at the Independent Publishers Book Awards in the USA) and Stay Mad, Sweetheart (finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and third place in the inaugural Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year award 2020), What I Hid From You is Heleen Kist’s third novel, and also the third book by her that I’ve read and loved.
What I Hid From You is told from the perspective of Radha, a Glaswegian dentist with Indian roots and that of her father. And as it turns out, both have some major stuff hidden from their family and friends.
Radha had an old lady die on her during treatment and is clearly suffering from undiagnosed PTSD. Even when she’s notified that the authorities have acquitted her of all blame and her practice is not in danger, she can’t get rid of the feeling that it’s somehow her fault, which of course stresses her out. In fact, every little thing is starting to stress her out.
Combining a career with the household with caring for a teenage son and a father with diabetes, trying to do everything at once and doing it perfectly, something had to give, of course it did. I did recognise myself in Radha, and I’m pretty sure many women will, always in a hurry, always stressed, feeling out of control, trying to do everything at once, burning yourself out. Radha figures one little pill to help her relax won’t hurt anybody… But one little pill turns into false prescriptions and an addiction.
Another source of worry for Radha is her teenage son, who is at that stage where kids feel too grown up for their parents, too cool for their embarrassing ways. Radha feels like she’s losing her little boy and she has a hard time giving him the space he so craves. I don’t have kids myself but I do believe this will ring true and feel authentic to readers with teenage kids. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this book is dedicated to the author’s son 😉
While the first part of What I Hid From You centres around Radha’s inner turmoil and her growing dependence on diazepam, that internal threat – Radha basically being her own worst enemy – becomes an even larger external threat when she gets mixed up with drug dealers in a desperate attempt to procure her pills when it’s become clear that she will be found out if she doesn’t stop prescribing so many sedatives.
At this point, it kinda felt like Radha was a close friend I wanted to protect but couldn’t. I had to stand by and watch, and it definitely made me turn the pages faster, because I wanted to be sure that she and her family would be safe and I had no clue how she would get there.
What I Hid From You makes use of the “lack of communication” trope, in that so much could have been solved if the protagonists had just sat down and talked things through with each other. This is a trope I generally dislike, although I do feel that What I Hid From You gets away with it because it felt so typical of Radha, to try and handle things on her own, and for another reason I can’t disclose cos spoilers.
Overall, I had a great time with What I Hid From You. I got caught up in this family and their issues and there are a few riveting bits as well. If you enjoy stories that combine the thrills of a psychological thriller with family drama and you love a flawed but tenacious main character, look no more and add What I Hid From You to your TBR.