After I decided to shove aside stupidity and take the ladies at MotherTalk up on an opportunity to review The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf, I felt instant regret. A novel about missing children and possible abduction is not high on my readability list. But despite my trepidations about the topic, from the moment I opened this book to the last page, I was hopelessly hooked. Dirty dishes be damned! My hair would dry on its own for once! I could not bring myself to put this hypnotic, page turner down.
The simple story is distinguished by the unusual nature of the protagonist: sweet, sensitive, seven-year old Calli is a selective mute,* unable to speak since suffering a tragedy as a toddler. Her classmate, Petra, is her best friend and voice. Both, coincidentally, go missing early one morning, disappearing from their homes. Calli’s abductor, a dubious, no-good character, is revealed early on to readers, but this kidnapper’s intention is unclear. Petra’s disappearance is more complex. The only trace they leave behind is a bare footprint in the dirt near Calli’s home. The chase is on as local sheriffs, the FBI, Calli’s mother and brother, along with Petra’s father, attempt a rescue mission to locate the little girls. Reader anxiety builds as suspects mount.
Employing multiple narrators with many distinct voices, the reader is provided a glimpse into the mind of each character from Antonia, Calli’s emotionally wounded mother, to Martin, Petra’s mild, but doggedly determined father, and even includes the voices of the missing girls. Their friendship is revealed through a series of flashbacks. The story manages to race forward despite the different voices and perspectives thanks to the well crafted chapters that ably exhibit the author’s care and creativity.
In The Weight of Silence, seemingly average people rise to the challenge of locating the children. The book as a whole does a fine job of ruminating on facing fears and finding truth.
Suspense is consistently maintained throughout the story. The plot is tantalizing (who snatched the girls and will they be rescued in time?); the reader is kept guessing until the climax. I needed to know what was going to happen next. Hence, the book was attached to my right hand until I completed it. In the end, the book’s impact derives mostly from its assured execution.
If you’re up for a suspenseful read, this is it. Many thanks to the ladies at MotherTalk and especially to Project Manager, Lauren Sleeper, for giving me the opportunity to provide this review.
*If only stupers (short for untantalizingly stupid persons) could somehow become selective mutes or just plain mute.