Monday, 5 April 2021

The Weight of Silence

Finished April 2
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

As intimated by the title, silence plays a multifaceted role in this novel. Seven-year-old Calli Clark hasn't spoken in three years, since her mother Antonia fell down the stairs resulted in the stillborn birth of a daughter. But, while in kindergarten, she gained a friend Petra Gregory. The two young girls seem to know what each other is thinking and work as a team together. Calli has also used some sign language that she uses when necessary. 
As the book opens, early one morning Calli awakens with the need to go pee. She can hear her father downstairs and knows that he is due to go fishing with a friend, leaving very early. She waits, holding herself and trying to distract herself until he is gone. When it is quiet, she sneaks downstairs,but at the door to the bathroom, her father calls her from outside, so she goes. 
Their relationship is complicated. Calli loves her father Griff, but she also fears him. He is a large man, burly and gruff, and works away from home, up in Alaska, coming home in between shifts. Calli's older brother Ben, who is twelve has similar feelings about their father. 
When she goes outside, Griff both insults her and reaches for her, and tells his friend, Roger, when he arrives that he will come later, but he wants to spend time with his daughter now. After Roger leaves, Griff pulls Calli toward the woods, on a mission to respond to a rumour that he's heard from his friends. 
Around the same time, Petra, who often doesn't sleep well, looks out her window and sees two figures, one of them an adult, in the woods. She decides to join them, reasoning that since one is an adult her parents won't mind. Petra's father Martin is a university professor, popular with his students, and welcoming to those lonely while away from home. Her mother Fielda is much younger, a local girl whose mother runs a cafe that they met at. They both dote on the young, precocious girl and love her dearly. Martin wakes early and when he finds Petra missing, he wakes his wife and they do a further search and then call the police. 
Immediately they think of Calli, and the police check her house finding her missing as well. Both girls are in their pajamas and Calli hasn't taken any shoes. Reinforcements are called for and the media is alerted. 
To add to the plot, Antonia grew up best friends with Louis who is now Deputy Sheriff. They care deeply for each other, and planned to marry one day until a falling out in their senior year of high school. Louis went off to university and found Toni married to Griff when he returned. They've tried to stay friends since, but Griff is a jealous man, and Louis' wife resents his friendship, so they are cordial but distant. 
Besides the silence of Calli, there is another. Toni has no real friends, because she can't expose the reality of her life with Griff to anyone. 
As the families of the missing girls and the wider community widen their search, more and more of the truth comes to light. 
This story was captivating and I loved the personalities of the young girls and how they worked as a team. I also felt for Toni's isolation, created by her circumstances and her choices, and how close her relationship to her children is as opposed to those with anyone else. 

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