Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Weight of Silence, by Heather Gudenkauf (author), Jim Colby (narrator), Eliza Foss (narrator), Cassandra Morris (narrator), Andy Paris (narrator), Thérèse Plummer (narrator), Tony Ward (narrator)

Recorded Books, October 2009 (original publication August 2008)

Early one August morning, two families discover their little girls are missing. Calli Clark and Petra Gregory are seven years old, and best friends. Calli, following a family tragedy when she was four, suffers from selective mutism. There's nothing physically wrong, but she hasn't spoken in three years. Petra, her best friend, is adept at being Calli's voice, able to understand and articulate what Calli wants to say.

And now they are both missing.

Calli's abusive, alcoholic father, Griff, is supposed to be on a fishing trip with his friend, Roger, but when Roger is finally located, Griff isn't with him.

Calli's mother, Antonia, and her brother, Ben, as well as Petra's father, Martin Gregory, and the local deputy sheriff, Loris Lewis, who was Antonia's first boyfriend, each get their own alternating chapters, unfolding the story from their viewpoints. Calli's is the only one told in third person, past tense, which is a nice touch.

What the reader, or listener, knows that the adult characters don't, is that the girls aren't together, and they are both alive. There is no guarantee they will remain so, and much reason to fear they won't. Griff is the prime suspect, and whether or not it's him, there was another little girl who previously disappeared, and was found, eventually, murdered and abused.

I found the characters compelling, and the story engrossing. There is one scene, that we see, ultimately, from the viewpoints of Antonia, Calli, Martin, and Lewis, in every case stopping at telling us that Calli spoke just one word, and not telling us the word until the fifth telling of it. That was maddening, entirely too much of drawing out that one particular detail to no real narrative purpose, but that was, for me, the only major storytelling failure. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book.

Flashbacks further enrich the story, helping us understand how the characters got to this point, and the complex connections among them. Griff is an abusive, alcoholic husband and father, and some of Antonia's choices may be hard to understand for people unfamiliar with how abuse affects the victim's ability to see themselves as even having the right to be treated better. Abused spouses don't leave because their ability to make that decision and act on it has been damaged by the abuse. They feel shame and guilt, too often, instead of the anger that would allow them to get out. (This is aside from the fact that help in getting away from a dangerous spouse is often far less available than those who've never experienced it fondly believe.)

Overall, a good, rewarding story.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.