This Hidden Thing

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WINNER of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction at the 2011 Manitoba book awards! 

Maria works for years as the immigrant “help” in a fine Winnipeg home. But there is a secret from those years she will need to keep for the rest of her life.

“mind-and-heart-catching…” (jurors)

“a testament to the pleasure of pure storytelling…” (jurors)

“beautifully and intelligently written” (Sarah Klassen)

“I never imagined what the end would be for Maria, whom I had come to love so deeply” (Katherine Arnoldi)

to ORDER: Best bets are,  or McNally Robinsons’s Booksellers in Winnipeg, or your local bookstore.    204 594 0527 or toll free 1-877 846 1593

Winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year (2010). Comments of the jurors (Joan Barfoot, Trevor Cole, Richard LeBrun): Dora Dueck’s emotionally smart and unsentimental account of half a century in the life of a Mennonite immigrant to Manitoba moves eloquently from 1927, when she enters domestic service as a girl, through desire, pregnancy, poverty, war and a variety of affections and loyalities. With mind-and-heart-catching observations, Dueck creates a humane and fully satisfying depiction of times, places, communities and, most vitally, a compellingly astringent protagonist in the person of Maria Klassen.

Shortlisted for the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction (2010). Comments of the jurors (Tannis Gretzinger, Corey Redekop, Deborah Rush): “This Hidden Thing,” tracing almost the entirety of one woman’s experiences growing up in early 20th century Winnipeg, is a testament to the pleasure of pure storytelling. The care and precision Dora Dueck brings to her characters results in a story of warmth and compassion that never wavers in its quality. With echoes of the sensitivity of Carol Shields’ “The Stone Diaries,” Dueck has crafted a novel that resonates. 

“Reasons I write” at CBC Manitoba Scene.

Manitoba Book Awards: at CBC Manitoba Scene, here and here; article at Winnipeg Free Press.


Prairie Fire review: “absorbing, finely crafted… full, empathetic portraits… no stock characters here, no shortcuts.” Faith Johnston

“Lives and Memories,” Prairie Books NOW (Print edition, online post pending) —
“beautifully written… [protagonist] Maria’s response is exquisitely nuanced…” M. Goldik

“Exposing ‘this hidden thing’,” Canadian Mennonite — “an eloquent saga….attention to detail” B.L. Dyck

“Novelist examines early Mennonite experience,” ChristianWeek review/article — “driven by characters….Dueck’s talent shows in skilful passages which reveal much about her characters….soaked in history….its tone [ ] one of spiritual questioning…” Julienne Isaacs

“Hiding secrets, finding hope,” MB Herald — “entertains with sparkle… unique and engaging… I recommend this book.” J. Dick

To be hidden, to be known,” Mennonite Weekly Review — “compellingly draws out [the] themes… a superb job of using Maria’s very particular situation…to limn the contours of human relationship… here’s hoping [Dueck] will find the space to write another novel of this caliber. And soon.” M.S. Mock

“This Hidden Thing,” 37 Mice (blog)

Review, Mennonite Historian– “I could not put [the book] down and several weeks after reading… Maria lingers in my mind. She will be there for a long time.” E.N. Schroeder

ReviewJournal of Mennonite Studies “multi-layered expose…Maria is a startlingly authentic character, a fully individualized composite…a moving and fully believable depiction…”

For book clubs or study

CMU Press has put together a great set of questions about This Hidden Thing for book club discussion or study, here.


April 17: winner at the 2011 Manitoba Book Awards.

March (2011) news:  This Hidden Thing shortlisted for two Manitoba Book Awards: The McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction! (See complete lists here.)

December (2010) update: This Hidden Thing made McNally Robinson Bookseller’s Manitoba 10 bestsellers for 2010!

The book’s production:

I enjoyed the reflections of Jonathan Dyck on what was involved in decisions about font and other aspects of the book’s production, here. He was employed at CMU Press at the time and I’m so grateful for his part in the production and also in publicity. I too am very pleased with how the book “looks and feels.” (Jonathan is now pursuing further studies in Edmonton.)

The Launch:

A few photos from the launch, May 19, 2010: (photos by Eunice Sloan)

Notice at McNally Robinson Booksellers entrance

Remarks, and reading from the book

May, 2010: News release from CMU Press, by Jonathan Dyck, hereOrder information here.

Hidden Thing flyer

April 21, 2010: Since the upcoming book will have something of a life of its own — at least for a while — as books often do, I thought I’d devote a new page to it for that life, for that while.

Sneak peaks at the front cover, and the back cover and spine:

7 thoughts on “This Hidden Thing

  1. Hi Dora,

    I recently read This Hidden Thing. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having grown up in Winnipeg and having had two aunts who were domestics who went to the Mary-Martha home it was fascinating to enter this world because I never had the privilege to talk to my aunts about the experience. I also had an uncle who was the black sheep of the family. Fortunately he is no longer that because he accepted the Lord late in life. He now lives in the Ukrainian “diaspora” in Vita, MB and testifies openly about his faith. He even challenges the Ukrainian Catholic priest in town to be more open about his faith.

    Having read that the book “offers a worthy female, urban counterpart to Rudy Wiebe’s Peace Shall Destroy Many” I decided to read Wiebe’s book again. To my amazement I realized that this was written almost 50 years ago. In my humble opinion I would totally agree with this evaluation of your book. I hope many read it. I like Maria because among her positive qualities is the fact that she refuses to gossip. We can all learn from that.

    • Thanks for writing, Bob, and for your generous comments. Interesting that you had some of these characters in your family, though perhaps no one quite like Maria! 🙂

  2. Wow!!! Congratulations, Dora…very exciting! You think perhaps I could shine in a bit of “reflected glory”, having at one time been a baby sitter of the writer?? Lol I will be ordering the book and look forward to reading it …and hope you win an award (or more than one)! Good Luck

  3. Dayna shared your book with me last year. When I read the title and basic storyline I thought the “hidden thing” would be predictable, and it was, but I was drawn in by the introspective tone of the story and by the many layers in the story. As they were peeled back, I was particularly taken by the story of her brother who ended up going to war. My interest started with the way Maria “parented” him, trying to teach him to take responsibility for his actions by making him fix things and make things right. It’s what I’m trying to do with my son. I was a little saddened by the outcome of his story. But in the end, I guess everyone has to live their own story. I thoroughly enjoyed your book.

    • I appreciate your taking the time to write and share your experience of the book with me, Selma. You illustrate what so often happens to me when I read too, that it intersects with my own life in many interesting ways. All the best!

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