Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

'Two little girls are missing. Both are seven years old and have been missing for at least sixteen hours.'

Calli Clark is a dreamer. A sweet, gentle girl, Calli 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.

When best friends Calli and Petra are found to be missing by their parents very early in the morning, missing person reports are filed and a case begins to find these two young girls in a small American town, the kind of town where everyone knows everyone, but a town that also has dense woodlands. Whilst the story itself takes place in a short fraction of time, there are a number of glimpses in to the past which help to build the plot and dynamics between the key players of the story.

The story itself is told from the perspective of multiple people, and whilst that could get a little confusing, that wasn't the case in The Weight of Silence. I didn't find the multi perspective to dampen the mystery for the reader either, whilst we were very much in the know regarding certain elements of the story, that knowledge only helped to build the suspense and tension within scenes.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the plotting of this book, there is an element of the plot which actually marked down The Weight of Silence for me - throughout reading I was sure to give the book a 5 star rating, but nearing the end that dropped to a 4.5. I don't want to say too much, and it isn't the ending that decreased the mark, but the reason for Calli's muteness is known early on in the book and yet by the 300+ page mark, there appeared to be a revelation regarding just that as if her own mother had not known the entire past couple of years why her daughter did not speak, and yet it should have been blatantly obvious. It just seemed like a bit of an inconsistency to me.

Overall I really enjoyed the characterisation in this book... I felt a connection with those in the book, and felt invested in their emotions and plight. I would like to have seen a little more of the Gregory's as a family, with a lot of emphasis put on the Clark family, but the impression given is that the Clark's (Calli's family) were the focus from the get go.

More than the characterisation, I loved the dynamics created within The Weight of Silence. There are a number of relationships and bonds within this book, but the connections in the Clark family really stood out to me - in particular the bond between Calli and her older brother, Ben. Even after having completed the book, I think about the way unconditional love was portrayed in this brother-sister relationship. Whilst there are so many ways in which the love and understanding between Calli and Ben are played out, one scene in particular stays in my mind. I don't want to say too much with how the book concludes, but there comes a time when Calli is needed to talk, explain, and Ben coaxes the words out of her via story telling. It sounds like such a simple thing perhaps, but the scene is so beautifully written and I feel like it depicts how they work together as brother and sister wonderfully. These are the sibling bonds I love to read about.

If family dynamics are something that appeals to you when reading, The Weight of Silence should be on your TBR.

As with the other Heather Gudenkauf novels I've read, I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style as well pacing within the book. The author has a wonderful way of drawing you in and then leaving you with bated breath needing to know more; that's exactly why The Weight of Silence is a real page turner. I'm not the fastest reader but managed to finish this book over the space of a weekend.

The multi person perspective within this book was a really good story telling tool, and what I loved about that most was the way in which the author portrayed Calli's mutism even through her narrative. Whilst the narrative of the other story tellers is written in first person, Calli's is written in third - I think that was really cleverly done.

If you're a fan of crime mysteries driven by family then The Weight of Silence is well worth picking up.



  1. This is still my favourite of HeatherG. I found her writing to be a little poetic and really enjoyed the multiple perspective.

    1. I definitely see what you mean regarding the poetic elements. This was only my third Gudenkauf book, but I think it's one of those books that'll stay with me for a while.

  2. I read this book last year, and I loved it! Great review.

  3. This is an author I've really been wanting to read. I tend to avoid books with missing children but I like the sound of this - especially about the scene you talk about with Calli and the story telling.

    1. Oh, whether it's this book or another I highly recommend checking out Heather's work... This is my current favourite of the three I've read from her, and also in the top three of books I've read so far this year. I think the subject of missing children was handled really well within The Weight of Silence.


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