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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page!
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf is an absorbing novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. It is the story of Calli, a 7 year old girl with selective mutism and her best friend Petra who both are found missing in the middle of the night. The story that ensues is not one that I usually like to read as a mother as it can be...
Published on August 27, 2009 by Redlady

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89 of 104 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Held my interest, but could've been better
The story line of this novel was good and I think the author had a good idea upon which to formulate a story. There were many smaller themes--small town life, childhood friendship, first loves, alcoholism and its effect on a family, etc. This story was told in pieces--both in present and in the past, recalled in the speaker's memories. I thought that was a fine vehicle...
Published on September 18, 2009 by Karen Ferrero


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89 of 104 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Held my interest, but could've been better, September 18, 2009
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
The story line of this novel was good and I think the author had a good idea upon which to formulate a story. There were many smaller themes--small town life, childhood friendship, first loves, alcoholism and its effect on a family, etc. This story was told in pieces--both in present and in the past, recalled in the speaker's memories. I thought that was a fine vehicle to deliver this story and I also thought it interesting in whose voices the author chose to tell the story, and whose were not chosen. I will say, too, that I raced through this novel--anxious to find out what happened to the two little girls and who was ultimately responsible.

But beyond that, there were several shortcomings in the book, most of which have already been covered here by other reviewers.
The writing is very amateurish. I don't expect everything I read to be a literary work of art and I don't seek that out either. But the writing here was very basic and undeveloped. I don't even agree with the reviewer that said it is more of a Young Adult read, just because of the simplistic writing style. I also enjoy YA reads from time to time and it is not simpler and inexperienced writing that makes a book YA, and to say that insults those authors. In my opinion, this author is simply inexperienced.

The other thing that really annoyed me about this book is the viewpoints and different voices. I appreciate that the author took this on, but what bothered me is that each one did not really have their own voice at all. They each created their own stories, sure. But their language and vocabularies did not vary, despite the range in ages (from 7 years old to 57 years old!) or their education level (first grader up to a college professor / department head)! Even the backgrounds of these characters varied so greatly--some small town, some from Chicago, some law enforcement, some academic, to stay-at-home moms. Yet, their voices all read the same. Each one was not individual in their wording, phrases, and not consistent with their ages, vocabulary level, or background. I would think this would be the basic construct of a novel that is speaking from each of the different characters. So that makes me wonder, why even bother writing in this manner? This really bothered me, and apparently some of the other reviewers here as well.

I was a little disappointed in the character of Antonia, too. Overall, I can't say I liked this book as much as I WAS really interested in it and stuck with it to see the outcome. So in that respect, it is a success and that's why I gave it 3 stars. I doubt I would read another of Heather Gudenkauf's books.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page!, August 27, 2009
By 
Redlady (http://redladysreadingroom-redlady.blogspot.com/) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf is an absorbing novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page. It is the story of Calli, a 7 year old girl with selective mutism and her best friend Petra who both are found missing in the middle of the night. The story that ensues is not one that I usually like to read as a mother as it can be heartwrenching to read stories related to abduction. I found that Ms. Gudenkauf focused on so much more than an "abduction" so please don't let that sway you from reading this book as it is truly about so much more. It focuses on family dynamics, the unconditional love and acceptance of childhoold friends and the power that holds in our relationships and secrets that are often left unspoken.

The Weight of Silence focuses on three families, Calli who is dragged into the woods behind her house by her drunken and abusive father in the early hours of the morning. Her mother Antonia, searches for her and gets support from the sheriff which was her childhood sweetheart. Calli's older brother Ben is determined to find Calli as he knows the woods that they have explored as children. Petra is an only child and has a special connection to Calli and she accepts Calli and often speaks for her. She goes missing after seeing someone familiar from her window in the middle of the night and follows them. We don't know as a reader if it is Calli and her father or someone else until the story unwinds. Petra's father Martin is determined to find his daughter and is driven by his emotion and almost destroys his own family. Sheriff Louis still has a fondness for Toni who married another man instead of waiting for him to finish college. Louis' own marriage unravels as this story unfolds.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints of the girls, Antonia, Ben, Martin and the Sheriff. This style of storytelling worked well as they shared their thoughts in second and third person views. It flowed smoothly as each viewpoint was a relatively short chapter and then you quickly moved on to the next persons point of view. It kept my focus intent and involved as a reader and I couldn't wait to read what happened next. The author has a wonderful style of writing that skillfully weaves a story that makes you not want to put the book down. Ms. Gudenkauf writes with sensitivity and discretion related to the abduction scenes. It is not overly graphic, in my opinion, but it may be a sensitive subject for some to read about. I highly recommend it, and make sure that you block off some time to read it as you will most likely need to read straight through to the bittersweet ending.

This would be an excellent book for a book club discussion as there are many themes to discuss related to selective mutism, childhood friendships, family dynamics, marriage, motherhood, parenting, alcoholism, abuse etc. There is a list of Discussion questions at the back of the trade paperback edition.
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98 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real nail-biter., July 29, 2009
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
I was given the opportunity to read this book before its release and I have been telling everyone about it since. I found myself totally absorbed in the story and the characters. And like others, could not put it down. In fact I became so involved in the story that it felt like the search for the girls would stop if I didn't keep reading! The author did a great job of building the suspense, pulling me in and giving out just the right amount of information to keep me guessing. A "suspense" novel that truely is suspenseful.
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36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Weight of Silence, August 7, 2009
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This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
The Weight of Silence is a debut novel by Heather Gudenkauf. I started the book this morning, and have finished it this afternoon. I couldn't put it down, I just had to get to the ending and see how the story would unfold.

Callie is a selective mute. Petra is Callie's best friend and acts as Callie's voice. The two girls go missing, and from there the story takes you on many twist and turns while their parents and police look for them.

The book is told from many different points of views that switch off throughout it. I liked this because you got a glimpse as to what each person was going through and how they saw the events that played out.

I enjoyed the book, and its bittersweet ending, and would definitely recommend it.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A spellbinding novel, August 10, 2009
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
The Weight of Silence started out with a bang and kept me riveted throughout. Not only is the "whodunnit" part of the book enthralling in its own right, but the thought provoking issue of silence/secrets also kept me interested and thinking. The only problem I had with this book was the fact that the narrator changed from chapter to chapter, yet the voice of each narrator was not distinct, thus the multiple narrator format was less successful than it could have been.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read!, July 29, 2009
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This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
I couldn't put this down, from the very first page. Each of the characters was so real, and the author put us in the mind of each. Two girls are missing, a nightmare for a small town where everyone knows each other, or thinks that they do. I'll be looking forward to more by this author!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good concept, bad writing, September 19, 2009
By 
P. Jones (Fremont, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
When I read the back of this book, I really thought it was going to be a good read.
The first few chapters of the book were indeed interesting and well written. Later on, it seemed the writer was just filling up pages. There was a lot of needless background information on the characters that just didn't need to be there. I kept thinking to myself..who cares..come on already!
I think the overall concept of the book was a good one. I think the writing style left a lot to be desired. I actually didn't mind the changing characters with every chapter, but I did mind all the "filler" that this book seemed to be full of.
I am also a stickler for facts. During the story Petra Gregory is referred to as Petra Martin (pg 133)
Also Antonia talks about how she met her husband when she was seventeen (or 18?..doesn't matter) and sold him beer at the quick mart she worked at. That's illegal in all 50 states. Someone should have caught mistakes like that.
Disappointing.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tense dark family drama, August 2, 2009
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
In Willow Creek, Iowa, Griff Clark has gone fishing when his wife Antonia awakens from her sleep to find their seven years old daughter Calli gone. She is worried because this is not normal for her child who has been mute for three years after a run in with her abusive father.

Checking with the neighbors, Antonia learns that Calli's best friend Petra Gregory is also not home. Distraught, Antonia turns to her long term friend, Deputy Sheriff Loras Louis to learn what has happened to her daughter. He arranges a manhunt even as he hides how much he loves Antonia from her.

Although it takes a minor adjustment, as the perspective rotates between five key players, this is a tense dark family drama that hooks the audience from the moment Antonia wakes up to the worst that could happen to her; much more so than the beatings from her abusive spouse. The realistic story line is fast-paced even with the rotating viewpoints, but never lightens up; so is not for everyone as the aptly titled THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE is very heavy as "Silence like a cancer grows" (Simon and Garfunkle's The Sounds of Silence).

Harriet Klausner
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Story but---, November 7, 2009
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
I really enjoyed the story. The characters are mostly realistic. The ending was not exactly a surprise, but then I read a lot of mysteries and detective stories. I would recommend the book. It is light reading and the story moves quickly.

But, please what happened to editing? There is a line in the book that reads - "My mother killed the bat that came down the chimney with an umbrella". I have seen many bats over the years and even had a few in my house. Perhaps I have just not seen the right bat, but I have never seen one with an umbrella.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and Affecting Debut Novel, January 25, 2011
By 
S. Schell (OH United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Weight of Silence (Paperback)
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Child abduction is a parent's worst nightmare. We hear about it on the television, we read about it on the internet and even sometimes the newspapers, a form of media that is quickly becoming extinct. Writers love to turn the public's worst fears into gripping stories, some attempts more successful than others. "The Weight of Silence" is another of those success stories, choosing the route of literary fiction and turning out one of the more affecting tales of abduction by bridging it with the tragedy, dysfunction and abuse that oftentimes goes unnoticed by those on the outside.

The novel has an interesting cast of characters, six of which voice the story with their first-person account of events (Antonia, Callie, Petra, Deputy Sheriff Louis, Ben, Martin). Seven-year old Calli Clark is the central character, her condition as a selective mute the running theme of the book. It all begins with her waking up on a sweltering August morning to her alcoholic father Griff already drunk and belligerent on the back porch, beer cans littered around his feet. Without warning, he drags her off into the woods behind their house, no one (including the reader) knowing where they are going, when they will return or what Griff, violent and unpredictable, will do to himself and/or his daughter. Her best friend Petra Gregory, who serves as Calli's "voice", goes missing at the same time, a manhunt ensuing that has every integral character involved repeatedly and oftentimes reluctantly veering into the past.

Through numerous beautifully transitioned flashbacks, the reader learns about Toni and Griff's slowly imploding marriage, the extent of the physical and emotional abuse that Calli and her older brother Ben suffered at the hands of their father, the complicated history between Toni and Sheriff Louis, and the guilt Martin suffers from his faults as a husband and father. They also learn part of the reason for Calli's muteness through a particularly jarring event when she is only four years old; the ultimate revelation is withheld until the very end when she at last divulges the words her father whispered into her ear that silenced her for three years. The plot and writing style is elegiac and suspenseful, though some astute readers may predict the culprit of Petra's assault long before that information is revealed (the book is a bit predictable on that front). What "The Weight of Silence" has going for it the most is author Heather Gudenkauf's astute ability to create complicated character histories, weaving them all together into an elaborate and deftly paced story, one that readers will find themselves devouring within - if time and opportunity allow them - a 24-hour period.

As always, there are pieces of the author everywhere in their stories, if one knows where to look. Gudenkauf can probably relate to Calli in a few ways - born with profound unilateral hearing loss, she wore hearing aids throughout much of her childhood, her impairment making it difficult for her to carry on conversations and form friendships (much like Calli, who employed sign language at times to communicate - Heather might well have done the same). She isolated herself through the world of books, hunkering down in an old toy chest while she absorbed stories that took her worlds away from the painfully awkward and difficult social standing that was her life. Lucky for us readers, this condition in its own curious way served as the reason Gudenkauf began writing, her love for literature and her weakened verbal interaction giving rise to her aptitude with the written word as a form of art as well as communication.

Bottom line: I can appreciate books that take their time to build interest in plot and characters, the story leisurely pouring over my mind like a nearly empty bottle of Heinz ketchup over a plate of fries. But I love it when I come across a book that hooks me within just a few pages and despite a busy day has me reading while I eat, while I cook, while I jog on the treadmill, that has me staying up into the wee hours, my eyes burning from lack of sleep and my hands aching from holding the book. "The Weight of Silence" is that cane that yanks you off the stage of your reality and onto someone else's, forcing you to watch a show that is impossible not to applaud once the curtain closes on its final act. I hope it steals you away and brings you back breathless.
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The Weight of Silence
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (Paperback - July 28, 2009)
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