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on 8 February 2012
In as many months, I seem to have coincidentally read three novels that focus on selective mutism in children; `Breaking the Silence' by Diane Chamberlain, `December' by Elizabeth Winthrop- and now this one. All of the books have their merits and all deal with the subject matter in different ways and all have made for enjoyable, informative reading.

This is the second novel by Gudenkauf that I have read. I really loved `These Things Hidden' so had high hopes for this one too. It didn't disappoint and I think the writing style is similar to Chamberlain or Picoult, so should you like those authors then you will probably enjoy this book as well.

Set in the US, this book features Calli, eight-years-old and selectively mute for four years, for reasons that slowly become clearer as the book unfolds. This is not just a story concentrating on Calli though; it is a look at friendships, relationships and family and was actually a much more absorbing read than I'd initially anticipated, particularly looking at some other less-than-favourable reviews this novel had received in the past.

As a reader you are immediately engaged with the novel and the different characters as you see events from their perspective. Sometimes a multiple narrator approach just doesn't work, but here thankfully, it was successful and really pulls you into the story. It also allowed the plot to untangle much more quickly. I was never bored whilst reading this novel.

I was however frustrated and also angry with a lot of the characters- particularly Calli's awful father and her mother who seemed blind to his faults. Though Griff (the father) was a horrible person it was actually Antonia, the mother, who came off as more irresponsible overall. Some of the matters that take place later (involving a child) are also a bit grim and upsetting but the reactions to them seem a bit `glossed over' (even in the prologue which was set four years later). I would have liked people's thoughts and emotions to these said matters to be divulged and expanded on just a little bit more, particularly given how serious they were- which is why I have deducted a star.

Generally this was a compelling novel. I really hope to read more by Gudenkauf again in future and hope it is as strongly written as this.
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VINE VOICEon 14 September 2010
Two little girls have gone missing from their homes in the early hours of the morning - this book follows the stories of the various people involved.
The book is divided into short chapters which are narrated by different characters showing the difference perspectives, including those of Calli and Petra, the missing girls.
Calli's chapters are written in the third person which works as a contrast to the first person used for the other voices - she doesn't talk to anyone so why would she talk to a book!!
Right at the beginning the girls go missing, combine this with the fast pace and the reader is immediately given the feeling of panic being experienced across the town.
As the book progresses, the backgrounds of all the characters emerge, full of the inevitable secrets and hidden emotions.
The relationships between the characters are described very well - they are all slightly off the norm which makes for an interesting read (eg Toni and Louis - Calli and Ben).
The actual plot is very sensational with the twists and turns feeling too coincidental and, consequently, unreal in places.
The book is compared on the cover to Jodi Piccoult but does not have the same quality of a believeable plot, never the less, well worth reading.
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VINE VOICEon 25 June 2010
This story is spread over a sixteen hour period when two 7 year old girls both vanish from their houses on the same night, without a trace. Calli suffers from selective mutism and hasn't spoken since she was 4 years old, despite councelling and psychological help. Her best friend, Petra, understands Calli and acts as her mouthpiece to other friends and adults alike.

The book is written a chapter at a time by a different narrator: as well as the two girls, there is also Antonia and Ben (Calli's Mum and brother), Martin (Petra's Dad) and Sherrif Louis (who was an childhood sweetheart of Antonia's and is still in love with her). From the first realisation of a disappearance (at 4.30am) until the conclusion the reader is taken on a journey through the adults attempt to bring the girls home safely.

This may sound like the book is a thriller / mystery type and at times I did wonder if that was what it was trying to be: however if that was its intention then I'm not sure it works. There is a crime committed but it's pretty obvious "whodunnit" in both the girls cases fairly early on and the great revelation at the end falls a bit flat. The book really centres around Calli's muteness more than anything and her reasons for being that way. I also suspect that this was meant to be some great revelation too but again, it's not hard to work out why pretty early on.

I don't mean to sell the book short as, admitidly, it is a real page-turner. The short chapters that are alternately narrated by a different character means that the book has great forward momentum and I do like that in a book; one where you say "just one more chapter" and then again and again until you've read the whole thing before you know it. To summarise, I really liked this book and although I didn't think there was anything particularly clever or original in it sometimes I don't need that in a book. As far as debuts go, this is a pretty good attempt. I do think that the book could have done with a tad more spit and polish but it's more than likely that I will pick up her next book when it's out too - I think this author may be one to watch in the future.

I would recommend for a holiday read or a quick page-turner between more heavyweight tomes.
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on 1 August 2010
The Weight of Silence is the final book in the TV Book Club's Summer Reads selection and as I'm drawn to books about families in crisis I decided to give it a try.

The book follows two families who wake one morning to discover that their 7-year-old daughters have disappeared. A frantic hunt for them begins with suspicion for their disappearance thrown on numerous people throughout the story.

The book was fast paced and made up almost entirely of dialogue - this combined with the fact that the book was narrated by six different people meant that I felt I was just skimming the surface, never really getting to know any of the individual characters or the motivations for their actions. I was dragged along by the action, forced to turn the page by the continual end-of-chapter cliff hangers, but never felt any emotional connection to the characters.

There were some tender moments and I especially liked this paragraph about marriage:

"People say that being a mother is the most important job you will ever have. And it is very important. But it is even more important, I believe, to be a wife, a good wife.... I don't mean you have to be a floor mat. That not what I mean at all. I mean, who you choose to walk with through life will be the most important decision that you will ever, ever make. You will have your children and you will love them because they are yours and because they will be wonderful....But who you marry is a choice. The man you choose should make you happy, encourage you in following your dreams, big ones and little ones."

But these moments of genius were rare and I ended the book feeling a bit disappointed. The resolution to the mystery of the girls' disappearance wasn't particularly original or surprising and I felt that certain plot points were a bit dubious.

Overall this was a light, entertaining read, but I don't expect to remember much about it next year.
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VINE VOICEon 13 July 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a whodunit book that looks at events surrounding the story of two missing girls, all of which takes place within the time space of one day. It is a relatively easy read with a predictable narrative. The book tackles several heavy subjects including alcoholism, domestic violence and selective mutism. However, perhaps because it is handling so many difficult subjects at the same time, it does not appear to do much justice to any of them. I particularly felt that the explanation for the selective mutism was somewhat clichéd.

As many other reviewers have commented, the book's narrative has been likened to Jodi Picoult. I disagree with this and feel that this has not been as engrossing or in depth as some Jodi Picoult books I've read.

Overall however, I feel that this is a decent read for those times when you just need something familiar and easy.
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VINE VOICEon 1 March 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I expected this book to be better... i thought the story of the missing girls would be based over a longer period of time when really it was under 24 hours.

An awful lot happened in those 24 hours, I don't know much about prodedures on missing children but apart from the parents there didnt seem to be a sense of urgency, considering the girls were only 7 years old.

However, I did like how it gave you bits of all of the characters, I would have liked to have had something in Antonia's husbands' prospective but than again maybe I wouldnt as he seemed whiny and seemed to resent the attention his wife gave to the children instead of directing the attention to him. Antonia I felt was a very weak character, she didnt want to face up to things and seemed to just go along with the husband and the way he treated his children.

I did guess who was behind the girls going missing, it wasn't so much obvious so much as just a feeling I had, whilst reading it.

It says on the front cover that all Jodi Picoult fans would enjoy this, I cant say whether I agree or not as I don't read her books but it might be worth her fans giving this one a go
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on 1 April 2012
The Weight of Silence is described in more than one place as a book Jodi Picoult fans will love. Well I'm a Jodi Picoult fan, but to be honest that's not something that would make me want to read a book, what's the point of reading a book that's like a book you have already read, I don't know. I can certainly see the comparison between Gundenkauf and Picoult, they have very similar writing styles and both seem to like using multiple narrators. However that's where the comparison really ends. While Pioult's books tend to have some central moral issue which gets the reader thinking there was no such issue in Weight of Silence. I suppose it is similar in the way we see different emotions and views of an event, but there is no internal debate.

I did enjoy it all the same. It was actually a little bit of a mystery as we tried to work out what had happened to Petra (we are basically told what happened to Calli, or at least to a certain point). I admit that I did expect Calli's mutism to be more of a central theme but really, while it was an interesting aspect, it didn't seem necessary. Calli's big moment could have been done so much better and given a twist in the plot, or even just taken the reader in another direction. I did also guess what I think was meant to be a twist in the story.

The story was quite moving though, but not to the level where I felt uncomfortable reading it (I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not). It was very readable, in that it was written in an easy way to read and in that I wanted to find out what happened next. I also really liked how Calli's chapters were written in the third person rather than her own voice (as the other chapters were) which suggested she couldn't tell her story.
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VINE VOICEon 16 August 2010
I think that the author did a good job with this story, although not yet quite upto par with authors such as Diane Chamberlain or Margaret Leroy. However, the plot is a really great idea and did keep me turning pages even though it was pretty easy to guess who the bad guy was way before the end. I really did feel for the characters and found myself wishing I could hug the two little girls! Overall, a book I would recommend, but wouldn't read again. I will look out for her second novel, as this author has promise.
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VINE VOICEon 14 August 2015
At first I thought this was a crime novel, but there's no serious crime (a bit of scene-setting historical domestic violence doesn't count).

Then I thought it was a mystery novel, but there's no mystery: the missing girls give first-hand accounts of their ordeal throughout.

Then I thought it was a psychological thriller, but the characters are such flat stereotypes that anything as subtle as psychology is beyond them – except the obvious bad guy, Griff, but he's the only major character who doesn't get the first-person treatment, presumably because he's the bad guy and the author doesn't want the readers sympathising with him (maybe she should read Nabokov).

The multiple narrator idea is good (maybe she's been reading Audrey Niffenegger), but it's not much use when the characters – implausibly, given the terrifying events that are unfolding – spend most of their time musing about the past. Gudenkauf isn't a skilled enough writer to balance so many characters: they all talk and think in the same way, and eventually they merge into one. This isn't helped by the simplistic characterisation: people are good or bad.

Add to that the pedestrian narration, artless description and flat dialogue, and we have a thoroughly unexceptional book. By that logic, one star seems harsh, as it's not terrible – undemanding sun-lounge readers can flip through it and find it mildly diverting – but at no point does it transcend mediocrity. It shows a depressing lack of ambition on the author's part.

(This was the other book I rescued from the bin at the Village Hall, along with Genesis by Karin Slaughter. Their failings are oddly similar. Maybe the phantom book dumper had more taste than I gave them credit for.)
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on 21 October 2009
I pre-ordered this book based on a 20 word review in a book industry magazine. When I started it, I was enthralled from the first moment, enjoying the way the story unravels, loving the mystery and desperately wanting further clues to be revealed. This is a wonderful novel told through the eyes of several characters, allowing you to get to know and understand them and share their fears and desires. If you enjoyed Alice Seybold's "The Lovely Bones", you will love this book!
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