Rummanah Aasi
  I picked up Heather Gudenkauf's debut novel, The Weight of Silence. I read her second book, These Things Hidden, which was a suspenseful yet disturbing read. You can read my review for These Things Hidden here. I had actually wanted to read The Weight of Silence first but I didn't get a hand on a copy of the book until now. 

Description (from Amazon): Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. 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.
  Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.
   Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.
  Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

Review: The Weight of Silence reads like a Lifetime TV movie. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a movie based on the book. Though not as suspenseful as her other novel, The Weight of Silence left something to be desires. I enjoyed the storyline, which hooked me right away. The story 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, who 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 if Petra follows her best friend 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. Most of these narratives are written from the first person point of view with the exception of the third person voice of Callie, who is selectively mute. I thought multiple narratives added suspense and drove the plot, however, it didn't really develop much of the characters who are fairly one dimensional. I also thought the voices sounded pretty much the same person. If the character name wasn't given on each chapter, I wouldn't have known it was a different character narrating. 
   The Weight of Silence is a quick read, however, I thought the author lost her focus by adding too many smaller themes into her story such as small town life, childhood friendship, first loves, alcoholism and its effect on a family, etc into her story. If she would have focused on a couple or at the most three of these issues, I could've become more emotionally involved with the story. Instead I found myself far removed from the characters and the situation. I should've been horrified with what happened to the girls but I left with the feeling of "Oh, that's too bad" which is probably what the author doesn't want.
  Readers who enjoy plot driven books would probably not mind the things I didn't like the book, however, I like to connect to the characters as well as the plot. Since I was interested to see how the plot unfolds and it held my attention, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy suspenseful reads.  

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusion to rape, and physical abuse. Recommended for strong teen readers and adults.

If you like this book try: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf or The Murderer's Daughter by Randy Susan Meyers
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Definitely sounds like there's a lot of little things going on with this one and that detracts from the overall story. I really like the premise though and despite the narrators' not being easily distinguishable, it still sounds like an interesting read! I definitely want to know what happens to her:)

  2. Great review! I am more a character driven reader than plot driven. Not sure if this would be my type of read.

  3. Too bad it got a bit lost. It's nice when a book has subplots, but not when it drags down the main plot. At least it was a fast read.

  4. Meh. I'm not sure about this one for me. I'm not one for Lifetime movies drama, and alternating the narrative style just irritates me. I guess I'm a narrow minded reader. LOL

    But I appreciate the thoughtful review. Thanks Rummanah.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Beautiful review....I read this a few years ago and remember really liking it...;)

  6. Lauren M Says:

    Hmm, the comparison to a Lifetime movie has me skeptical...they tend to be too melodramatic for my tastes. :P I'm glad the plot is riveting, but it's a bummer that the book left you feeling detached. Thanks for the review!

  7. LoriStrongin Says:

    Bummer to hear parts of this book fell flat. I love stories of family secrets and watch as they fall apart. So I still might pick up the first book of the series and see if it pulls me into the second one. Thanks for the honest review!


  8. I read this for my bookclub in April and couldn't put it down. I enjoyed reading your review. It reminded me to put more of her books on my TBR list!

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