Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Test (Patricia Gussin)

There is nothing like a good mystery story, especially one that is set in your hometown. Landmarks that the author writes about are familiar enough to make the reader understand the story more. Philadelphia seems to be the setting for many of these stories (Lisa Scottoline being the master)...I suppose because of the city's historical value.

"The Test" is the story of a billionaire family with roots in Philadelphia's exclusive Main Line. The many Parnell family members gather after their father's death to hear the reading of his will. They are shocked when they learn that they will only receive their part of the inheritance if they each pass his "test". Paul Parnell, the patriarch, felt guilty that he never really taught his children the morals they need to survive. Their inheritance will depend on if they can learn these morals in one year. Along the way, they will each face much hardship and tragedy.

This novel had such an interesting premise, but never really succeeded in getting where it needed to go. I had a hard time getting through it, as I felt at times that I was reading a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys mystery. The story is cliche'-ridden, and the ending comes so out of left field that it is laughable. Still, Gussin should be commended for her outline. This could have been a slam dunk.


This review can also be found at

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Note From Author Heather Gudenkauf

This is a note I received from bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf ("The Weight of Silence") regarding yesterday's review. This is posted with Heather's permission.

Dear Harper,

Thank you for the great review! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. Your blog looks great - I know I'll be back often to find some good books to read.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Weight of Silence (Heather Gudenkauf)

"The Weight of Silence" has been one of the summer bestsellers this year, and for good reason. I found myself very quickly becoming lost in Gudenkauf's debut novel. At times absolutely heartbreaking, it will grab you from the beginning and not let go until Calli's epilogue.

The story begins one early morning as Calli, a first grader, is dragged into the woods by her alcoholic father. Calli is a selective mute, and the backstory about how she became that way is intriguing. As the people who love her try to find out where she has gone, the story intertwines with another disappearance, Calli's best friend, Petra. Petra has always been there for Calli, being her "voice". When a substitute teacher punishes Petra for always talking for her friend, Petra saves the day. Calli's mother, Antonia, tells her that one day in the future, she may have to help Petra in the same way. This day comes sooner than she thinks when Petra is in serious trouble.

"The Weight of Silence" speaks from different viewpoints, all in the first person, except for one, Calli. The puzzle pieces keep piling up, until the reader finally puts them together. What happened to Calli that she stopped talking? What happened to Calli and Petra in the woods? The ending is bittersweet, yet heartbreaking.