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The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Three years later, Louis had gone away to college and I married Griff. Damn fairies, I thought to myself now. I don't live in a yellow house, I've never been to the ocean, and Louis didn't love me forever. And my Calli, my dear heart, is missing. All that I touch gets damaged or lost.

from page 115

The title of Heather Gudenkauf's debut novel, The Weight of Silence, has both literal and figurative meaning in this spell binding and heart pounding story. The story is straight from every parent's worst nightmare; however, at its heart it is truly about the cost of the silence it takes to keep a secret hidden and the trauma that would silence a little girl for years.

One idyllic summer day, the Clark and Gregory families wake up early to find that their seven year old daughters, Calli Clark and Petra Gregory, are missing. As the sweltering summer day progresses and the search continues, it becomes clear that the two girls, best friends for years, have not merely wandered off into the neighboring woods to explore together. It is not even clear that the girls are together.

The story revolves among several perspectives: Deputy Sheriff Louis; Antonia, Calli's mother; Ben, Calli's brother; Martin, Petra's father; and Callie and Petra. Slowly the events of the day unfold from each character's point of view and we learn what led each girl to be missing from her respective home. We learn also of the shared and separate histories of each character as brutal family secrets are revealed, including the alcoholism and abuse that the Clark children and their mother suffer at the hands of Griff, their father and husband and the tragedy that led to Calli's muteness.

This is a breath taking, page turning, suspenseful novel ripe with beautiful writing that vividly depicts the terror the children experience at the hands of their father in the midst of his alcohol fueled rages. I highly recommend this book.

The Weight of Silence is available upon request from Annville Free Library and Lebanon Community Library.


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