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.