The Weight of Silence: A Novel by Heather Gudenkauf (Mira, July 28, 2009), 384 pages
Calli Clark doesn’t talk. Not because she can’t — she used to — but because she won’t. No one really knows why, although members of her family do know when the selective mutism started. When she and her best friend, her bosom buddy, her voice, both disappear from their beds on hot, sticky August night, tensions are high and relationships are tested. Calli’s father, who has a history of violence and alcohol abuse, is a prime suspect in some people’s minds. He was supposed to go leave on a fishing trip early this morning and can’t be reached. Petra’s professor dad finds a side to himself he didn’t know existed. The homes in this small Iowa town seem to all back up to the woods — Calli’s favorite sanctuary, but much of it’s uncharted, too.
It’s a book of family dynamics, secrets untold and unquestioned. Trust, hope, healing. Self-esteem and self doubt. The fear and pain of infertility.
At each chapter change (they’re short) the perspective changes; we see the story unfold from the perspective of many — but not all — of our characters. This multi-character perspective was much more well-done in this book than in the other like it I’ve read this year.
This is Gudenkauf’s debut novel.
While many factors drew me to this book — it’s set in Iowa, where I lived for about a decade, the domestic narrative — I was also cautious about picking it up. It’s about 7-year-olds being abducted! It entails troubled family life.
The story is fast-moving, but it’s not your typical plot-driven narrative. I wasn’t quite sure why I was so compelled to keep turning the pages, but I definitely was compelled.
A couple things stuck out as weird to me: First, cell phones play basically no part in the story, even though it’s set in modern day and at least a few characters have them. And second, it’s sticky inside everyone’s house first thing in the morning. Yes, it’s August, which means it’s hot (except for maybe this year). But that means you have the air conditioner on. The only way the story’s use of this made sense to me was if the whole town didn’t have A/C, which would be very strange.
Although it’s certainly sad, I enjoyed this book. It’s a book that could dredge up emotions and encourage conversations that need to take place. And, it’s not overarchingly sad (which is good for me).
Heather Gudenkauf lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband, three children, and a spoiled German shorthaired pointer named Maxine. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking and running. She is working on her second novel.
You can buy The Weight of Silence at a discount! Use the coupon code SILENCE10 at eharlequin.com for 10 percent off of The Weight of Silence; it’s effective August 1 through September 15 at eHQ for print or digital.
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