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The Weight of Silence Paperback – July 28, 2009
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This is the story of two families and their worst nightmare. Their young daughters, who were best friends, disappeared before daybreak. They lived in rural Iowa, and their homes were surrounded by acres and acres of dense woods. It was unclear whether they had been abducted or for reasons unknown, left on their own.
Calli, a sweet little girl, had suffered from selective mutism for three years, and Petra was her voice. Who would take these innocent children into the woods? Were they together or had they been separated?
As the desperate search progressed, both families were forced to confront unspoken secrets. Was Calli's mother, Antonia, responsible for her daughter's mutism? Should she have stayed in an abusive marriage to a man who might be responsible for her daughter's disappearance? Was Petra's soft-spoken academic father capable of shooting a man?
The terror felt by Calli and her brother, Ben, who frantically searched for his sister was palpable. The mental image of Calli running through the woods in only her nightgown was realistic and frightening.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries with a psychological twist
This novel had a fascinating plot that kept me turning pages to find out what happened to those two missing girls. As the novel opened with a prologue that let readers know that Calli returns from the woods safely, it was truly fear for Petra that was the driving force.
With the prologue, after only a few pages, I knewthat Calli will return from the woods and we know that she will speak her first word in years. So, with that knowledge, I read the first half of the book to `catch up' to the events in the prologue, wondering what that word would be. Finally, I was at that point in the book; it came sooner than expected, toward the middle, rather than at the very end. Calli emerged from the woods and said her first word in years. However, making readers wait through half of the novel was just not enough for this author. She then dragged out the 'suspense' for THREE MORE chapters. After a point, it's no longer `building suspense', it's just irritating. It reminded me of my teenage years when I would watch soap operas; The writers of those soap operas could drag out an hour long event for over a week. I think this novel would have been better had it just left out the prologue; that way, that first half of the book anticipation would have been mitigated somewhat.
The love story thread that was told in flashbacks by Calli's mother and the police officer in charge of the case, while interesting, was still a disappointment. No grand event caused them to break up; it was nothing but Calli's mother's immaturity and selfishness.
Having Calli's brother's viewpoint told in the form of `letters' to Calli was a little offputting. There didn't seem to be a reason for this change in form.
When I finally found out the reason for Calli's silence, I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike many books I have read, the basis for the trauma was acutely realistic.
The ending was practical and satisfying. Ms. Gudenkauf pulls no punches and ensures that taste of reality in her work by NOT giving all of her characters happy endings.
Character Development: 4 1/4 Stars
Calli's mother was not only a selfish person, but she was a rather unrealistic one. She knows why her daughter won't speak, or at least she has some idea, but she lets it go on for four years without questioning her? In her own way, she abuses her daughter as much as Calli's father did by being silent herself.
Calli's father was not as well-developed as he could have been. I also had trouble believing that he could have maintained intoxication for the time period required for his actions, especially with so much physical exercise.
The police officer was also not very likable as he seemed very weak and did not care much about his own family. However, his wife was equally despicable with her rantings.
Calli and her brother were very well drawn. Ms. Gudenkauf certainly knows how to portray children.
Writing Style: 5 Stars
The writing style of Ms. Gudenkauf in this novel wass of a caliber that will keep you turning pages. Her descriptions were tightly formatted, making for vivid pictures. The dialogue was realistic and of good voice.
Editing/Formatting: 5 Stars
Both were of professional quality.
Rating: PG-16 for Adult Situations and references to Child Abuse and Child Rape
The Weight of Silence was very well written. I loved the way the author told the story from different points of view and the way she told everyone's story a little differently. The points of view she used were unique in that while different characters told the story, they each told their story in a different way. The brother, Ben, is talking directly to Calli. Calli's story is told in third person, which makes a great deal of sense since her character is a little mysterious and removed since she doesn't talk, and the other characters are all in the first person.
I was torn between giving it 4 or 5 stars and after changing my rating twice, settled on four stars. Maybe it's unfair to compare The Weight of Silence to Heather Gudenkauf's other book, but These Things Hidden was absolutely riveting and is a must-read!
Heather Gudenkauf is one of my favorite writers because if her ability to create compelling, complex characters with distinct voices, fast paced plots that grab readers from page one and don't let go until well after finishing the novel.
I rarely give 5 star reviews, and when I do, I know I'll read the novel multiple times, as I have THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE.
Most recent customer reviews
Sad, frightening and compelling. It was a true mystery, not knowing who the bad guy was until the very end.