The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
Published in 2009 by Mira
Book 11 in my January Kindle Challenge
Calli Clark is a dreamer. A sweet, gentle girl, Callie suffers from selective mutism, brought on by a tragedy she experienced as a toddler. Her mother Antonia tries her best to help, but is trapped in a marriage to a violent husband.
Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli have been heard from since their disappearance was discovered.
Now Calli and Petra’s families are bound by the question of what has happened to their children. As support turns to suspicion, it seems the answers lie trapped in the silence of unspoken secrets.
Two little girls are missing, and their families frantically try and work together to find them. Set over just a few hours, this book has a whole bunch of narrators, including the two girls themselves, Calli’s mother Antonia and her brother Ben, Petra’s father Martin, and the deputy sheriff, who was also Antonia’s first love. The chapters are all very short which I think helped prevent the multiple points of view from becoming too confusing – you could never get sucked in enough to one strand to find the change in narration too frustrating.
What is also clever is that all the chapters are told in the first person, except for Calli’s – she doesn’t speak so this makes sense and was a nice touch.
This is a gripping novel, and there is tension throughout as all the families try and work out what has happened. Accusations fly – mainly in the direction of Calli’s father Griff who has also disappeared. Although he isn’t one of the novel’s narrators, he is the key player in the book, as it is his violent, alcoholic behaviour that has stopped Calli speaking and had a huge affect on Antonia and Ben. As we have all the different points of view, we have information that the characters in the novel don’t always have – and sometimes I think this is the book’s downfall. It seemed blatantly obvious to me ‘whodunnit’, and also why Calli had lost her voice. I don’t know if this was the author’s intention, but there is really no mystery element to the book or any particularly major twists.
In fact I found the story a bit confused in some ways. Although all the action takes place over the course of a few hours after the girls have disappeared, we know for the main part what is happening. By the end I felt that the story was really about Calli and what had happened to her to make her lose her voice, and maybe this should have been the focus of the novel as the disappearance almost became the sub-plot, and it wasn’t quite as thrilling as I thought it may be.
Despite this, there is a lot I liked about the novel. I thought the characters were interesting and I really liked the relationship between Calli and her brother. I also thought that Griff was a really interesting character, and his affect on the rest of his family was well portrayed.
Overall I did enjoy this novel, even though there were some elements I wasn’t quite sure about, and I would definitely read more from Gudenkauf.