The Weight of Silence by Helen Gudenkauf

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Hello readers, feel like this is going to be a regular occurrence but this lovely book came from the really upsetting closing of my local bookstore which I have bought books from throughout my time in the different world that is Stoke on Trent. I plucked up the courage to finally ask when it’ll be closing its doors and it’ll be the end of January which will be a really upsetting day. This book was not what I was expecting at all but did I enjoy it – yes I think I did.

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

As the blurb suggests the book follows Calli Clark who is a selective mute which is brought on by an incredibly stressful situation as a young child. Living in an amongst the woods with her alcoholic father and her graceful but fragile mother Calli is a dreamer and a delightful girl. However, one early morning Petra and Calli both disappear. We follow the story as the families attempt to find their daughters amongst the uncompromising forest and realign their lives.

These past few months there has definitely been a reading focus for me on different book focuses that I have yet to experience really and the only other experience with selective mutism was a Natasha Preston book which I struggled with if I’m honest. As a reader I immediately became engaged with the plot line and the many different narrative voices that are given to us. The writing is heady and evocative and really sold the landscape and the lifestyle of the characters we are reading about.Sometimes the multiple narrator doesn’t work but here it does -although only just. It does however allow the plot to become clear a lot quicker which means that you’re constantly moving between the different storylines.I also liked that Calli’s chapters were written in third person which helps to contrast with the first person used in the rest of the book – seeing as she doesn’t talk it helps to set the scene and keep the consistency of the novel. I thought the sixteen hour period of time worked well to engage the reader too.

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There are a number of wobbles – I was throughout annoyed at many of the characters especially both Calli’s parents. Griff is frustrating and difficult to agree with, although he is a flawed character there’s something utterly horrible about him. I really felt for Antonia and the difficulties that she has with Griff and protecting her children from his alcoholic tendencies but there was more to it. She’s irresponsible to her children throughout and I really felt for little Calli. I also thought the book was a little light for the heavier aspects of the novel as a whole; we deal with alcoholism, domestic abuse, child abuse and yet it falls slightly off the mark in really investing the reader and I think it’s because of the characters being so unlikable and so difficult to relate emotionally.

Overall though I did enjoy this; it brought me an interesting plot line the suspense was woven in well and I did gabble through to the end. I didn’t quite get the ‘who-dunnit,’ at then end but I did enjoy working through what I thought the ending would consist of. A little heavier, more likeable characters and I think this would have resonated more with me, but still a good read.

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