The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Heather Gudenkauf's novel The Weight of Silence is a nearly perfect book with a major flaw. I'm rating this book as five stars because it gives me as much of what I want out of a story as I can get. It's a page turner at times. It has believable and flawed characters. It makes me think about situations from other people's points of view. I can't ask for more than that. Still, I couldn't get my mind off of one problem while I was reading it.
Calli Clark is a young girl, five or six years old, in a troubled family living in Willow Creek, a small, rural town. The trouble in her family comes from her father, Griff, who is abusive and suffers with a serious alcohol problem. Her mother, Toni, is a sweet, loving, woman who is too weak to confront her husband and rationalizes her acceptance of her husband's ways because she wants to keep her family together.
Something has happened to Calli in the past that has caused her to stop speaking. This selective mutism is the reason for the title and it is the force behind everything that happens in this book. It was caused by a family secret that must come out.
Here is where I have trouble with the plot. Calli is an intelligent young girl who can express herself clearly by writing. Gudenkauf makes a point about how many words she can write at an early age. Calli meets with a counselor who gets her to write a journal made up of words and pictures. Clearly, she can express herself with paper and pencil. Yet, except for Mr. Wilson the counselor, no one, not even her mother, gives Calli the opportunity to “speak” on paper. At school she communicates through her friend, Petra, who is so close to Calli she always knows what Calli is thinking.
Calli is taken into the woods behind her home by her father, in a jealous rage. He is convinced that Deputy Sheriff Louis is Calli's biological father because Toni had a relationship with Louis prior to her marriage. At the same time Petra sees something out of her bedroom window and heads into the woods to follow what she saw.
The story is about the search for the two young girls out in the woods. But it is about much more than that. It is a story of human failings and how they affect relationships. It makes me think and keeps me enthralled. For that I can certainly suspend my disbelief about one part of the plot.
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