“It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.”
The Weight of Silence, Heather Gudenkauf’s first novel, is poignant, suspenseful, and heart wrenching. At the center of the story is the disappearance of two seven year old girls – Calli Clark, dragged from her bed and into the woods by her angry, drunken father, and her best friend, Petra Gregory, who goes missing at the same time. Calli, who suffers from selective mutism (brought on by another traumatic event precipitated by her father four years earlier), is unable to cry for help or plead with her father to release her. Meanwhile, Petra, who has been Calli’s “voice,” is facing grave danger of her own.
Gudenkauf tells the story through the alternating viewpoints of the girls and their family members, a technique which allows the reader into the minds of each person involved. So we come to know and understand Calli’s mother Antonia’s guilt, born of staying with a man she knows to be violent and hateful, and finally realizing why she seems powerless to leave him. We see how much Calli’s brother Ben loves his sister, and marvel at the maturity of this 14 year old boy who seems willing to put his life on the line to save her. Martin Gregory, Petra’s father, a mild mannered professor, reveals a strength and capacity for violence which surprises himself and his wife, Fielda, as he seeks revenge on his daughter’s abductor.
And all the while, the “weight of silence” – Calli’s literal silence, and the unspoken secrets and hidden feelings of her family – plays a major role in determining whether the girls will return safely to their families and their homes.
The Weight of Silence is the kind of novel that begs to be read on a rainy Sunday, when you can devote the entire afternoon to this riveting story of family relationships, suspense, and danger. Gudenkauf has written more than just a good suspense novel – she sets the scene beautifully, and provides complex characters who inspire emotional reactions from the reader. Highly recommended!
~Thanks to Trish, and TLC Book Tours for the opporutnity to read and review this book.~
The Weight of Silence, by Heather Gudenkauf
Published by Mira Books, July 2009
Includes Reading Group guide