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The Weight of Silence

A book by Heather Gudenkauf

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Secrets kept in silence

  • Apr 1, 2011
The Weight of Silence is an impressive novel for many reasons. It tells a complex story in a unique way, it masters the multiple perspectives well, and it kept me enthralled from beginning to end.

It's a story of secrets held by time and silences kept for too long, and the awful cost this brings to two families and their community.

Beginning with the disappearance of two young girls, one of whom has not spoken in years, the story jumps from character to character. Sometimes the voice is that of one of the increasingly-distraught parents, sometimes it's the police looking for the girls, sometimes one of the girls themselves. It could be a retelling of past events or rooted in the present. Chapters are generally short and sweet as the narrative leaps from one facet of story to the next.

These leaps are anything but random, though. Plot revelations are doled out steadily, just enough to keep the reader wanting more, keeping the pages turning. The pacing here is a small marvel, and each narrative voice is unique, easy to distinguish from the others so you always know where you are in the story and who you're with.

Small marvels lead to larger ones, as what starts out as an apparently simple story about a drunk, abusive father and two missing girls becomes a multilayered, complex and surprising tale of long-held secrets, deceptions, trauma, guilt, and redemption. Peeled back layer by layer, the secrets are thick and only come to light over time.

Though Gudenkauf's ear for dialogue could use some work - some of it comes off a little like a melodrama - her characters are sharp overall, with motivations that I could relate to and reactions I could understand. The compelling story more than made up for the occasional clumsy dialogue.

The Weight of Silence has an lesson inherent in its pages, a promise implied in the title and kept in the pages of its story. Secrets have a cost, and the most terrible secrets are kept at a price often too high to bear. The price of secrets is isolation and silence. borne over the course of years, even lifetimes. And the weight of silence is heavy enough to crush even the strongest of us.

It's a lesson worth remembering, and The Weight of Silence is a worthy teacher.

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More The Weight of Silence reviews
review by . October 02, 2010
One summer morning, Martin Gregory comes to Calli  Clark's home. Martin's daughter, Petra, hasn't been home and he wonders if she's with Calli. When Antonia Clark, Calli's mother, checks her room, she's shocked to find that Calli hadn't slept at home either.      Calli is a seven-year-old who suffers from selective mutism due to an incident she she was a toddler. Her father, Griff, is an abusive alcoholic who lets Calli know that he doubts that …
review by . January 11, 2010
I am usually not a fan of thrillers but found this book so engrossing that I could not put it down. I read it in one afternoon (which is rare for me).     I have read many reviews with recaps of the story so I will refrain from rehasing the story again and possibly giving anything away since it is a thriller.    As other reviewers have noted, the chapters are set up based on the point of view of several of the main characters. I thought this was an excellent …
review by . October 22, 2009
When two young girls go missing in the woods, the answers to their disappearance lie in the secrets of the past. This novel was riveting- once I started it, I just couldn't put it down. As the story of the girls is revealed, the clues to their disappearance gradually reveal a very different story than I was expecting. I found it difficult to relate to some of the characters, especially Antonia, but regardless was pulled along by the power of the narrative. This is an excellent debut novel with an …
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Rich Stoehr ()
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I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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About this book


Gudenkauf's tightly plotted debut packs a lot of unsavory doings into a few unfortunate summer days in Willow Creek, Iowa. Seven-year-old Calli Clark hasn't spoken a word in the three years since a particularly nasty run-in with her violent, wife-beating father, Griff. During a bender, Griff suddenly decides to haul his mute daughter into the nearby forest, where they get lost. At the same time, Calli's best friend Petra goes missing, and a manhunt is launched, led by deputy sheriff Loras Louis, who still carries a torch for Calli's mother. Gudenkauf moves the story forward at a fast clip and is adept at building tension. There's a particular darkness to her heartland, rife as it is with predators and the walking wounded, and her unsentimental take on the milieu manages to find some hope without being maudlin.(Aug.)
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ISBN-10: 077832740X
ISBN-13: 978-0778327400
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
Publisher: Mira

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