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Weight of Silence - Heather Gudenkauf

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Heather Gudenkauf / Paperback / 416 pages / Book published 2010-04-16 by Mira Books

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    6 Reviews
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      13.05.2012 20:44
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      A great page turner

      This is a review of the 2009 book "The Weight of Silence" by Heather Gudenkauf, an author whose work I have just discovered I enjoy reading. The cover of this book reminds me of a few similar covers, two little girls holding hands with bare feet, this could mean anything but it drew me to read the back cover. The story is about two seven year old girls who go missing. The parents are the first suspects in the story as is often the case in real life. Their reactions and actions are all analysed from the minute everyone realises the girls are missing. But the search goes wider to question who else may be in the frame, meantime will the girls be found safe and sound? A bit about The book covers less than 24 hours in real time but also uses flashbacks to explain some of the background to the story. Perhaps the key point lies with Calli Clark, one of the missing girls who has been selectively mute since she was four. Her father is a bully and she is terrified of him. Her best friend Petra often speaks for her at school and home to tell people what Calli wants or needs. Time line At the very beginning of the book there is a short chapter which shows Calli running home from the woods to her mother. People are depending on her to get desperately needed help. Will she break her silence to help out her friend who has so often helped her in times of need? In the frame Calli's dad (Griff) is a drunk and a violent man and he doesn't seem to love his two children very much. In fact he doubts whether he is actually Calli's dad at all as his wife is very friendly with the small town's deputy Sherrif Louis. When he gets drunk, he gets mad and this is something that terrifies Calli who has seen him be violent towards her mother. Could he be so angry that he could try to kill two little girls though? Characters In the book, I wanted to give Antonia (Calli's mum) a shake as she often turns a blind eye towards Griff and his bad attitude. She knows he said something to Calli before she stopped speaking but has never tried to find out what. She undoubtedly loves her kids but she also knows she is a bad mother. She seems to be happy for her kids to roam the massive woods behind their house without check and is not particularly worried when Calli first turns up missing. Griff himself is despicable and easy to hate in the book. Calli's brother Ben is brave and a loyal caring brother to her and is one of the heroes in the book in my mind. Petra's dad Martin is older than Petra's mum Fielda and the two dote on their precious daughter. They suspect Griff being the key to the missing children and are trying to handle the media interest whilst they wait to hear if their daughter is safe. Structure The book is narrated by all the characters, chapter by chapter and this gives really useful insight in the story line. By printing Calli's return up front, you know that whilst something bad has happened, she will live and it does ramp up the suspense. But I can't also help but think that is gives away the ending before you've even started. My thoughts The subject is harrowing and a difficult one to accept. Missing children is always something that the media cover in depth and you hope for a good outcome. I enjoyed reading this book and really kept trying to guess what was going to happen and who dunnit so to speak. There are a few likely suspects but their motives are not clear. Final word I think this was a great buy for me and just enough to keep me turning the pages. I got it from Morrison's in a three for £5 deal so really can't complain value for money wise. I would recommend this as an excellent read and will seek further reading from the same author.

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        25.09.2011 16:51
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        Fairly enjoyable

        'The Weight of Silence' is a book I picked up at my local library. The front cover of this book intrigued me as it shows the held hands of two young girls. Combined with the title, this seemed as though it would probably be a thriller of some sort, or else a very sad tale. Luckily for me, it was the former, perhaps with just a pinch of the latter thrown in. The book features a young girl of seven, Calli, with selective mutism. This means that she does not ever speak, but this is not because she cannot, rather it is because she chooses not to. At least this is the diagnosis given to Calli by everyone. For her family and those around her, it is actually impossible to know why she will not speak, as she won't ever say out loud why she doesn't speak, despite talking normally before when she was younger. We are told that a tragedy she suffered is the reason she has stopped speaking. The story really gets going from the beginning, when very early on Calli and her best friend Petra, also aged seven, go missing one morning. What follows is a mad hunt to try and find where they are, and so essentially this book is a mystery, that revolves around trying to find out what has happened to these two young girls. During this hunt, we also get to learn about the families of the two girls, and of the complex connections that exist around them. Whilst the subject matter of this book was certainly interesting and original, I just found it hard to get in to. Normally when I get my hands on a book that I like, I can get through it fairly quickly, as I try to find every opportunity to read it. But I just didn't feel this way about this book, and I wonder if it is because the way in which it was written just didn't keep me interested. I definitely did want to finish it, as like I say, it had a good storyline. The biggest questions I had were 'why doesn't Calli speak?' (although I do think I guessed this less than half-way in, it was more just wanting to confirm my theory), and 'what has happened to Calli and Petra?' If it weren't for these questions I am not sure there was enough in terms of the way the story was written to keep me going. When I eventually found out what happened to the two girls, I felt a little deflated. It was a little anti-climatic for me, and contrastingly unoriginal compared to the overall storyline. Still, it was a fairly enjoyable read, even though it did take me a while to get round to finishing it. Thanks for reading!

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          27.05.2011 20:11

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          I can't recommend this book enough!

          What a book. I have to write this review while it's still fresh in my mind. I am a keen reader, mainly of fiction. Although I do not have one set genre that I prefer, I do like this type of drama/life kind of novel. I have to admit I am not easily pleased, I like a book to transport me to another world, a world where I can forget my own trials and tribulations for a while; a story that engrosses me so much I can barely put it down, and when I do can do nothing but think about it (Perhaps not very productive for my boss but I like it!) This doesn't happen very often, the only books that have remained in my head that have achieved this so far are Yann Martel's 'Life of Pi' and Chris Cleave's 'The Other Hand'. The book is very basically about 2 little girls whose families discover that they are missing. The book delves into everyones perspectives during the search for the girls. It is entertaining, intriguing, disturbing, moving and relatable to. Probably even more so if you happen to be a parent. It's use of language is perfect - an intelligent read that flows well yet doesn't have you reaching for the dictionary every other word! To me, the action never stopped. Just when I thought nothing else remarkable would happen, it did! I stumbled across this book really. I would normally not have picked it as I would have thought it sounded as if it may be a little too disturbing! However, due to Waterstones' fabulous 3 for 2 offer I decided to give it a try - I'm so glad i did! If you are thinking of reading 'The Weight of Silence', please, please do, it will stay with you long after the final page is turned. A highly recommended read that will definately feature in my (imaginary) top ten list! ..

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          15.08.2010 17:45
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          A great read!

          I saw this book in Asda in the 3 for £10 range and was initially drawn to it as the story contains a girl with selective mutism. Being a student speech therapist this particularly interested me so I decided to buy it and give it a go. Calli and Petra are best friends. They are both 7 years old, are neighbours and attend the same school. Calli hasn't spoken a single word since she was 4 years old, silenced by a tradegy at home. Petra and Calli are soul mates and she seems to know what Calli is thinking so she speaks on her behalf. One morning Petra's parent's wake up to find their daughter is not in her bed, and Calli has also gone missing. Both families are now bound by the question of what has happened to their children... ~ My thoughts ~ I thoroughly enjoyed this book and once I started it I could hardly put it down. The book is written from several points of view, which I found to be slightly confusing at first as I had to concentrate on who I was actually reading about but after a few chapters I felt I got to know the characters better and I loved the way the narration changed between characters. Most of the chapters are short and are written in first person, present tense (apart from that of one character which is written in 3rd person, past tense). I liked the short chapters as I felt it made the story fast paced and moved it along nicely. Although, I think sometimes some of the chapters were a bit too short and not developed enough. The whole book covers a 24 hour period but we also learn about events and people from the past through the characters telling the story. This allows the reader to learn about the people in the story as well as find out (what turns out to be) important information. I think the book is well written and easy to follow. The different perspectives allow us to see the story from different sides, and to see what is happening in more than one place at the same time. Even though the chapters are relatively short I still felt that the characters were well developed and I both sympathised and empathised with them (at different points in the book). The story is told from the points of view of Antonia, (Calli's mother), Calli, Petra, Petra's father Martin, and Deputy Sheriff Louis (Antonia's childhood sweetheart). I felt like I got to know all of these characters, as well as some of the other characters that were written about from these points of view (Petra's mother, Fielda, and Calli's father Griff, as well as some other characters, including the school counsellor and family friends). One of the main themes of the book is friendship; between Calli and Petra, and Calli and Ben. Other obvious themes are that of missing children, and Calli's selective mutism. Domestic violence is another aspect of the book that is important and it runs alongside the main storyline. There are a number of unpleasant themes in the book (mainly that of two children going missing) and although I felt sad at times, it is so beautifully written that I smiled lots of times throughout the book too. There are stories and tales from the past which help us to learn about the characters and their lives in more detail. The parents of both children begin to blame each other for the disappearance of their daughters, causing an uneasy relationship between them. Are they looking in the correct place for the cause of their missing daughters? Are they right to blame each other? Or should they be pointing their blame elsewhere. There are a number of twists and turns within the book and I didn't expect the ending that occurred. Once I finished reading the book I realised that there were elements of it which had given clues along the way but I did not pick up on these until they were drawn together towards the end of the book. I read some sections back and I realise now why I believed what I did, and I think it was cleverly written. The epilogue is written 6 years after the events surrounding the disappearance of the girls. It is written from the point of view of one character but we learn about more than this one person and it finished the book of well. Overall I really enjoyed this book and think it's a very good debut novel. I would recommend it as it is fast paced, beautifully written with enough suspense to keep you reading til the end. * Paperback: 416 pages * Publisher: Mira Books (16 April 2010) * ISBN-10: 0778303691 Available on amazon from £1.64 Thanks for reading!

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            31.07.2010 01:56
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            A very average book

            Seven year old Calli Clark has not talked since she was four and she witnessed her mother Antonia give birth to a stillborn daughter after she was thrown down the stairs by her violent husband Griff. Calli has only one friend, her school mate Petra who seems to know what Calli is thinking and speaks on her behalf. When Deputy Sheriff Louis receives a call saying that the two girls have vanished from their beds his mind is immediately focussed on another recent case when a young girl was found murdered and he knows that the killer is still on the loose. However, the families of the two girls come under investigation too. Calli comes from a family where her mother is locked into a marriage with a violent alcoholic while Petra comes from a safe and secure home with parents who dote on her. The book is written over a twenty four hour period from the time the girls disappear until the case is resolved and covers the police investigation as well as looking at the dynamics of the two families. Like many modern books, "The Weight Of Silence" is written in many voices. The story is told through the eyes of Calli, her mother Antonia, Deputy Sheriff Louis, Ben, Petra and Petra's father Martin. Sometimes telling the story in this way can be an effective method for allowing the different characters to develop but in this case there were simply too many jumps between the different stories to keep up with what was going on especially during the early stages of the story. The voices of Ben (Calli's brother) and Calli were not very believable and they often talked in a way which was not age appropriate and showed adult understanding of events. The whodunit part of the book was ok, nothing to blow your socks off. The fact that Antonia had previously had a romance with Deputy Sheriff Louis was probably meant to ad some interest to the story but all it did was annoy me. The storyline was fairly predictable with no great surprises. Gudenkauf did do a better job of writing about the family dynamics and how the families blame each other for what has happened. Antonia was a fairly realistic victim of domestic violence in that she covered up what was happening at home to try and keep up appearances to the outside world but I found her a bit too drippy and sappy for my liking. I don't think I warmed particularly to any of the characters even the electively mute Calli or her thoughtful big brother Ben. I first picked up "The Weight Of Silence" because of the recommendation by Diane Chamberlain on the back of the book saying that it was a beautifully written book. I don't think that beautiful is a word I would use to describe this book at all as it is very average. Heather Gudenkauf is said to be a competitor for Jodi Picoult on the front cover and while she writes in a similar formulaic style the story was nowhere near as developed as one of Picoult's. A very average debut novel.

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              09.07.2010 13:42
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              An ok read.

              When two seven year old girls go missing from their houses on the same night, most of the town are frantically searching for them and all are under suspicion. One of the girls, Callie, suffers from selective mutism brought on by an event as a toddler that goes unexplained for most of the story. Petra is Callie's best friend and also her mouthpiece, the one person who understands Callie better than anyone else. She has also vanished in the night from her bed. Now both Petra and Callie's family are under suspicion and both are frantic with worry. Spread over a sixteen hour period, this book follows the pain of having to deal with two missing children, and ultimately, why Callie has been too petrified to talk for such a long time. This story is very much centred on Callie's selective mutism, how she and her family have dealt with it and the reasons behind it and the story of Petra and Callie disappearing at times can take a bit of a backseat. We are told this story by each character in turn, chapter by chapter, from Callie to Petra, Callie's mum Antonia, Sheriff Louis (Antonia's childhood sweetheart and a major catalyst in what happens to Callie - discovered right at the beginning of the book so I'm not giving it away!) and Petra's father Martin. Each of these characters have their own backstory which is explained in enough detail to give you a strong indication of their characters without it being overdone and taking away from the main story. Important narratives and roles in the story are also that of Callie's older brother Ben whom I really warmed to throughout the story; if I was to have an older brother, I'd like him to be someone like Ben, warm kind and fiercely protective of his little sister, he is completely patient of her condition even if he is desperate to know what caused it and how he can cure her. This is a well written book, it is enjoyable, easy - and quick - to read. However, this is not the type of book to blow your socks off. This book was pleasant enough and I never wanted to give up on the story, but the story wasn't as exciting as I imagined it to be. Firstly, the reasons for Callie disappearing right at the start are explained making it clear the story is more about Callie's selective muteness than a mystery over her disappearance. Secondly, within a couple of chapters, it is very obvious what the basic reason behind her muteness is, although the specific circumstances are explained later on in the book. In parts this book is harrowing; after all, a book that revolves around two little girls going missing would strike a chord with most readers. I also thought that the way in which the other characters narratives were written was thoughtful and emotional and that was enough to keep me reading. There are also parts of the book which are cleverly written so much so that you aren't really aware of it until the final chapters when you realise that you hadn't picked up on certain things and that another story entirely was being played out without your knowledge. Still, the impact of this revelation was less than mind blowing and failed to make a lasting impression on me in the overall scheme of things. I have to say though that the ending was satisfying for me despite its lack of punch, it seemed to fit the mood of the book overall. Overall this was a good beach read that needed little concentration but one that was almost forgotten by the end of the last word. Radio Times says that it would "appeal to fans of Jodi Picoult" now if I had read that before reading the book, I would have been put off of it completely as in my mind, that isn't the best recommendation. Having said that, I don't think this book has that many similarities to Picoults book, there is no real moral dilemma in the story and the author, Heather Gudenkauf, has so much more intelligence and skill than Picoult in her storytelling. However if you are looking for a quick easy summer read then I can see where the similarities lie.

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