I am not ashamed to say that I am a Jodi Picoult fan. Apparently, I enjoy formula and even more than that I enjoy not taxing my brain too much. Heather Gudenkauf’s The Weight Of Silence promises a Picoult-like premise: Toni Clark’s young daughter Calli and her friend Petra go missing. Complicating matters further are Toni’s relationship with her abusive husband, and the history she shares with a local cop – as well as the fact that Calli is a selective mute. Calli has not spoken a word since an incident involving her parents years ago.
Gudenkauf attempts the multiple-narrators style, and in all honesty, it doesn’t work that well for her. She writes wonderfully for Toni. She then writes everyone else like Toni, and when ‘everyone else’ includes her teenage son Ben, her ex boyfriend (now deputy sheriff) Louis, and Calli herself, it has a jarring effect on the story. Possibly the only character who stands out from Toni is Martin, the father of Petra; however, they are shallow differences. That’s really the whole problem with ‘Silence’: it’s shallow. The characters are typical, without depth, and therefore you don’t really care about them or how things work out for them. After awhile, they blend into one, and the story takes on a ‘check the boxes’ feeling. Young girl with unexplained medical mystery? Check. Alcoholic father? Check. Mother with murky romantic past? Check. Red herrings thrown in to keep the mystery alive? You betcha.
By the time the story gains some momentum (and it takes awhile), I found I was reading merely to find out why Calli didn’t speak. It was a strong enough hook to keep me reading until the end, but unfortunately I was disappointed by the reasoning behind Calli’s muteness. There’s also a fairly unnecessary epilogue that undoes any of the goodwill Gudenkauf may have built over the course of her story. The resolution of the central mystery is also unsatisfying – you’ll work it out fairly quickly for yourself. Stick to the Picoult if this is your kind of thing.