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Review: The Weight of Silence

weight of silenceTitle: The Weight of Silence

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Genre: Fiction

One Sentence Summary: Best friends Callie and Petra go missing one morning, and the search for the girls brings out a host of secrets a small town was trying to avoid.

One Sentence Review: Gudenkauf’s debut novel has a compelling plot and unique structure, but lacks some depth when it comes to the central relationship of the story.

Author’s Note: I received this book for free as part of a blog tour for TLC Book Tours.

Long Summary: Seven-year-olds Callie and Petra are best friends. Callie, traumatized by an event in her past, hasn’t spoken for over three years. Petra has become Callie’s voice, and the girls are inseparable. One summer morning, Petra’s parents wake up to find their daughter missing. When they go to see if she’s with Callie, the two families discover that Callie is missing too. Fearing the worst, a search begins for the two missing girls which drives the rest of the story forward.

Long Review: I have to admit, I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. That’s not to say I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, just didn’t know anything about it going in and didn’t expect to be as great as it was.

The feature that makes the book stand out for me is the that the story was told through multiple voices — various characters each have sections where you get to hear directly from them. I thought Gudenkauf did a great job capturing each of the unique voices, and the technique helped to show how much the different characters were not able to tell each other.

I also thought the plot of the book — the search for the two girls — was compelling and entertaining; I stayed up pretty late for a few nights in a row because I was so eager to finish the book. The mystery of their disappearance starts on the first page and doesn’t really get resolved until the end. Gudenkauf sets up a number of possible scenarios for how the mystery could play out, and I didn’t figure out which one it was until the end.

My one critique is that I didn’t feel like there was enough to show the relationship that Callie and Petra had. We get a lot of it in flashbacks, but there aren’t many scenes with the girls together. Their relationship — described as soul mates — is such an integral part of the book, but I never felt like I knew enough about it or really believed it. Petra has short sections she narrates, but Callie never narrates the story (which makes sense, given that she doesn’t talk). I didn’t feel like the book ever got to the heart of their relationship. However, I think this is a small quibble with a book that overall I enjoyed very much.

Other Reviews: Fizzy Thoughts; Book, Line, and Sinker; Virtual Wordsmith

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

Final Note: If you’re interested in this book, you can get 10 percent off from August 1 to September 15 at eharlequin.com using the code SILENCE10.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • charley August 31, 2009, 7:22 am

    This sounds pretty interesting, but you say the central relationship is a bit weak? That might be a sticking point for me, too, because I tend to get more into the characters and their relationships than I do the plot.

    • Kim September 3, 2009, 10:24 pm

      Well, I say Callie and Petra’s relationship seems weak because the book never has scenes where the girls actually interact — it’s only through flashbacks that we see sort of why they’re close. It makes sense that the book is that way; both girls are missing separately, so there isn’t space in the plot to have them actually interact, so the flashbacks try to do that. But, I didn’t feel like the flashbacks did enough to show that so I always felt like I wanted more of them.

      However, a lot of the rest of the book is about relationships between the various families and people in town. I felt like all of those stories were well done and deep; those conflicts all felt real to me and you learn about them as the plot continues to move along.

  • bermudaonion August 31, 2009, 2:10 pm

    It sounds like this author has a great future ahead of her if you only have one critique! I’m looking forward to reading this one.

    • Kim September 3, 2009, 10:30 pm

      Yes, I think she does. I’m looking forward to reading her next book.

  • Heather Gudenkauf August 31, 2009, 3:58 pm

    Kim, thank you for the very nice review. I was glad to hear you liked the format of the story and found the plot suspenseful.
    Thanks also for your comments about the friendship between Calli and Petra – I appreciate your perspective.

    Really enjoyed your review of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – can’t wait to pick it up!

    Thank You for taking the time to read and review The Weight of Silence!

  • Florinda August 31, 2009, 4:43 pm

    My review for the tour is posting tomorrow, and I have to say that I agree with your quibble regarding the depiction of the relationship between Calli and Petra. I was also struck by the appropriateness of not having Calli narrate her chapters.

    Great review, Kim!

  • trish September 1, 2009, 11:51 am

    I totally agree with you, though I didn’t realize when I wrote my review that I also wished Calli’s and Petra’s relationship had been more developped. It’s a quibble, but a small quibble. I think Gudenkauf has a talent and can’t wait to see what she’ll put out next.

    Thanks for being on the tour and obviously putting time and effort into your review! 🙂

  • justicejenniferreads September 1, 2009, 6:34 pm

    I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I’ve read quite a few great reviews on this book and look forward to reading and reviewing it myself in the future. I like books that show the action through various perspectives. The plot also sounds really interesting to me.

  • softdrink September 1, 2009, 9:59 pm

    Good point about Callie and Petra. I was actually surprised by how much the book focused on the adults. Still, it was definitely an engaging page turner.

  • tiana June 22, 2010, 8:19 am

    from what i have heard, it is in fact calli who we are hearing from despite not speaking, and petra who never narrates. maybe my friend is wrong (she suggested i read this book), but another review source has said the same thing. is it hard to tell who is speaking? maybe changing who’s point of view the flashbacks are in might make them more telling. i have no idea. i plan on reading this myself to find out.

    • Kim June 22, 2010, 4:32 pm

      tiana: I honestly can’t remember the point of view in the flashbacks, I wish I could help, but I don’t have the book with me. I think it was Petra though, because I thought Callie didn’t really get a voice at all until the very end of the story. I could be wrong on that though.

  • Melanie October 11, 2010, 11:22 am

    Kim & Tiana:
    Tiana, I believe your friend is correct. It’s Petra who doesn’t narrate and Callie who narrates the flashbacks and a few other parts. Petra’s father narrates, but Petra herself does not.

    • Kim October 11, 2010, 6:57 pm

      Melanie: Thanks so much for clarifying that.

  • AlexZoch January 23, 2011, 2:43 pm

    I read The Weight of Silence about six or seven months ago, the summer of 2010. I was only twelve years old at the time [I am now 13] and being so young it was pretty odd that I got so hooked on a book like this. I went from Vampire Diaries, Beautiful Creatures, kind of book loving to…well, this. I am proud to add that ever since I read this book, it’s remained my very favourite. I think that Heather really exemplified the yearning Calli had to talk whenever her father beat her brother, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so. The little things that Heather used to build this story really showed impeccably. Reading the book, I don’t remember feeling that there wasn’t enough with Calli and Petra. I can recall Calli with her school counselor and how there was a few flashbacks of Calli and Petra together. Really, I remember the story moreso being about Calli finding the will to speak after being so scarred, and the mystery of everything the subject rather than how close Petra and Calli were. I think that their being best friends and ‘two peas in a pod’ simply added to the effect that both girls happened to go missing. All in all, I think this was a fabulous book + that everything was carried out with a lot of intensity, so bravo, Heather! xoxo, Alexandria Zoch.

  • Tayler May 19, 2012, 9:54 am

    I loved this book! I had to do a book report and The Weight of Silence was my first choice. As soon as I really got into it, I couldn’t stop reading. Another reason I like this book is because I live in Iowa right next to some timber. I highly recomend this book.

    • Kim May 22, 2012, 8:35 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! The plot is definitely addicting.

  • David July 15, 2013, 7:53 am

    I probably would never have even noticed this book on a store shelf. I purchased it a yard sale and feel fortunate to have made such a find. I just finished this last night, thoroughly enjoyed it and have already loaned it out. I had no problem with the lack of interaction between Calli and Petra. Their relationship was verified in that it was common knowledge to all the townspeople and its strength was well defined in the story of Petra going behind a substitute teacher’s back to “rescue” her from an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation. Petra’s minimal contributions to the story also made sense as she is unconscious and that input from her point of view would give away the story.
    The story is also somewhat timeless. Other than the fact that it was August, end of summer, this could have happened almost anytime and I kept visualizing this as occurring in the late 1950’s or early 60’s. I was imagining four door Plymouth police cars with bubblegum lights on top. Then there was the mention of a cell phone and I realized this could have been last week.
    A great first effort and highly recommendable.

  • Nancy L January 20, 2014, 10:54 pm

    There was very little physical description of the characters if any that would make you feel any connection to them emotionally or to relate with them. It was a page turner for me only because I found myself quite bored with the drama. None of the past drama where many pages were devoted seemed relevant; so I skimmed the page and turned it. Boring. I knew early on that Lucky had Petra; which more could have been written about her experience; but instead centered on adults. I suffered through it. NLH

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