I was intrigued by this book initially because the author decided to observe a silent day twice a month. She has faithfully done this now for seventeen years, occasionally observing longer time periods, even an entire week, in complete silence. The book documents her observations and experiences. Silence has changed her life.
At first, it is difficult for Anne's family and friends to accept that she will not take calls or talk at all on certain days. Then they begin to realize that certain things are not that important, they can wait a day. Anne begins to notice that she is getting calmer and more peaceful. The buzz of modern society begins to feel like an onslaught - the volume in a movie theatre is too much, for example. She begins to turn more and more towards nature, developing deeper appreciation of natural rhythms.
Along the way, she finds inpiration and wisdom among the world's spiritual traditions. After all, solitude and contemplation have been a prerequisite to enlightenment for many religious leaders. I found this aspect of the book a bit trite, because she draws on the usual suspects one would find on a Barnes and Noble religion or philosophy shelf.
In the end, however, I admit to some annoyance. Anne is a writer, her children are grown and away at college, her husband the naturalist is out of the house much of the time. She spends most of her day in solitude anyway. She comes from a certain background - white middle class New Englander - and lives out on Cape Cod year round; there is an inherent insularity already. What she has accomplished is not the big stretch it would be for someone in different circumstances. She is told as much by an Irani author that she meets at a writer's retreat. She dismisses his words initially by assuming he must be "a little drunk." She later realizes that silence has a shadowy side, where it is imposed on someone. But I get the impression she cannot really relate to this other perspective, she has neither the cultural background nor the ability to explore it deeply.
Also I would like to ask the author why she talks about long periods of meditative silence, but doesn't actually meditate. She would get the same benefits (and much more) in a shorter timeframe!
On the whole I enjoyed the book because I am also drawn to periods of quiet. The white spaces in our lives are very important, like pauses between musical notes that contribute to the overall score. Taking the book as merely a private view is the right perspective. It is one woman's personal journey, and a worthy one at that.