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The Weight of Silence

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When two little girls disappear in the night, the truth about what happened lies in the words they cannot speak.

As dawn’s shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families wake to find their little girls have gone missing. There’s seven-year-old Calli Clark, a sweet, gentle dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by a tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler, and Petra Gregory, Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice.

Desperate to find their children, Calli’s mother, Antonia, and Petra’s father, Martin, are forced to confront dark truths about the role each of them may have inadvertently played in the girls’ disappearance. Inextricably tied together, these two families are trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets. Will they find their daughters before it’s too late?

Heather Gudenkauf’s bestselling and groundbreaking debut is a gripping novel packed with dark secrets and deep emotion. This chilling tale of two families’ desperate search will linger long after the final page is turned.

And don’t miss Heather’s latest book, AN OVERNIGHT GUEST! You’ll be chilled and riveted from start to finish with this story of an unexpected visitor and a deadly snowstorm!

Check out these other riveting novels of suspense by bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf:

These Things Hidden
One Breath Away
Little Mercies
Missing Pieces
Not a Sound
Before She Was Found
This is How I Lied


373 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2008

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About the author

Heather Gudenkauf

18 books6,517 followers
Heather is the NYT and USA Today Bestselling author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE and THE OVERNIGHT GUEST

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5 stars
12,983 (29%)
4 stars
19,154 (42%)
3 stars
10,137 (22%)
2 stars
2,021 (4%)
1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,270 reviews
19 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2010
I wanted to like this book. I really did. It looked very fascinating on the Barnes and Noble top reads table and I waited for 3 months on a 200 person list to get it from the library. But this book was nothing special, and was undeserving of all the hype, in my opinion.

The basic plotline has been touched on already...two young girls, (one of who is a selective mute, for reasons unknown to anyone) neighbors and best friends, each go missing one morning and their families and the town sheriff go looking for them. During the search, each person takes time to reflect on their past and how it led him or her to be where he or she is today. Because I know when my little girl goes missing I'll take time to reminisce about the time I bought my dad a color television set thirty years ago.

The story is told from multiple points of view, so right off the bat we know exactly where the two girls are, and how they got there. We don't know if they'll remain safe, or if they'll get back home, but we know they aren't dead, nor are they together, as their families presume. This kind of kills some of the suspense right there.

On top of killing the suspense, it's makes the chapters told from the point of view of characters other than the two missing girls seem very boring and slow paced. Why would I bother to read about the parents wringing their hands in worry for pages and pages when I can just flip to the next chapter and find out myself how she is faring? It should have either been told entirely from the point of view of the searchers, or entirely from the girls' point of view, but flipping back and forth is a frustrating technique.

Third, except for the missing girls, most of these characters are unlikeable, one dimensional cliches. There is Cally's (the selective mute) father, an abusive alcoholic redneck, Antonia, Cally's mother, who is supposed to be this free spirited wondergirl, but is actually just a selfish twit too lazy and cowardly to protect her children from the emotional and physical abuse their father doles out. None of the other players even get a personality trait, other than "worried parent", or "concerned citizen". If you don't care about your characters, then you don't care about their problems, and you really don't care to read about them recounting their childhood which is of little relevance to the story at hand.

Finally, the big twist at the end, why Cally is mute, was actually revealed thirty or forty pages into the book, I guess the author just thought we might forget about it and wanted to remind us. Seems to me when you know your husband is abusive and your child just stops talking you might think the two might be related, but Antonia lives in denial and is also none too quick on the uptake.

The ending is too pat, considering the heavy material, the characters range from bland and inoffensive to downright heinous (and I'm including Antonia in there along with her abusive husband and the pedophile discovered at the end of the book), and the chapters move at a maddeningly slow pace. I would not recommend this book.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
696 reviews1,073 followers
October 1, 2017
This was quite possibly the first thriller/mystery I ever read. It set the bar for future reads, and what a high bar it set!
Two young girls, Calli and Petra; in a Southern American state go missing, after which follows the small town turning on itself and on each other. There is the top suspect, Calli's alcoholic father, as well as the underlying mystery of Calli's selective mutism.
The story moves between different POV including each of the young girls, the parents and also Callie's brother. It is a fantastic mystery, unraveling the flaws and secrets of so many of the characters and I loved them all! Even knowing the outcome I still love to get into the heads of the characters and its such a perfect setting. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for  Li'l Owl.
398 reviews231 followers
March 25, 2019
Wow! The Weight of Silence is a dandy of a story! Heather Gudenkauf is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors!

Seven year old Calli Clark doesn't talk. The doctor's say there's nothing physically wrong with her. One day when she was four she suddenly stopped talking. What could have happened to stop a happy, talkative child from uttering another word for three years?

Petra Gregory lives next door and is not just Calli's best friend she's also Calli's voice.

Then one summer morning the Gregory's and Clark's wake to find both girls missing.
They often play in the woods surrounding their home but not ever at 4:00 in the morning. After a quick search of the immediate area without finding the girls Deputy Sheriff Louis calls for an organized search. Calli's mother, Antonia, and brother, Ben are sick with worry. Petra's parents, Martin and Fielda are equally frantic to find their daughter.

As the hours pass and the day becomes hotter there is still no sign of Calli or Petra. When Antonia discovers some adult-size footprints alongside some obvious child size ones together in the dirt the fear that this could be an abduction ramps everyone's fears into overdrive. Antonia's abusive, alcoholic husband becomes increasingly suspect but he went fishing with his buddy at 3:00 am. Didn't he?

This is a fast paced, thriller that will take hold and keep you running full throttle through the pages!
Highly recommended!

Profile Image for Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh.
167 reviews508 followers
December 27, 2012
The Weight of Silence –I was drawn by the fabulous title. Keeping secrets is a coping skill we've all used, when taken to the extreme it can be deadly. Silence is this novel’s binding theme, hammered home by her choice to have the main character Calli a selective mute; a theme that lifts it above the slew of other child abduction stories currently on the market.
Calli and her best friend Petra go missing in the middle of the night. The suspicion is kidnapping, her alcoholic father the prime suspect; we follow the families in their search for the missing children. Gudenkauf adopts the current trend of telling a story through several points of view, a style she handles with refreshing cohesiveness. She builds strong, multi-faceted characters then ratchet’s the tension between them to high. Calli a surprisingly resilient little survivor; Ben struck a personal cord, the older protective brother every little girl wants - I lucked out and had one. It’s got a swift moving plot and thwarted love thrown in for good measure. Child abuse is an element, but the reader is spared the graphic details.
Negatives: Fairly predictable outcome and kinda clunky dialog. What bugged me most was the police investigation, incompetent to the point of silliness.

3 ½ stars for a solid debut. This is finely crafted suspense, my preference over graphic thrillers and motivation to read more of her books. Kept me up half the night anyway. Footnote: As a child the author was hearing impaired, personal experience with the weight of silence. Explains the empathy breathed into Calli's character.

“I ate my words that day. Actually bit down, chewed them, swallowed them and felt them slide down my throat like glass until they were so broken and damaged that there was no possible way that the words could rearrange and repair themselves enough to be spoken”.
Profile Image for Myrna.
708 reviews
February 23, 2017
Heather, I don't know why I haven't read all of your books?!? This book took me on a wild ride! It was suspenseful with a good plot line and characterization. One slowly learns what happened to the girls through multiple perspectives. Good paced book that is a winner.
3 reviews
February 25, 2013
I'm not even going to bother continuing this tripe. A super duper wonderful little girl is a selective mute, and one morning she and another super duper wonderful little girl go missing. There's not a single moment of suspense, since both super duper wonderful little girls are POV characters at different points of the book, so we know they're not dead or hurt, unless it turns out they're ghosts! Wouldn't put that past this writer.

So let's go through our stock character collection: We've got the small time cop still pining for his lost love (he missed his chance at true love!), intellectual professor from humble roots (betcha didn't know a hog farmer could be all into book learnin'!), drunk wife beater with less subtlety than Snidely Whiplash (he pushed his pregnant wife down the stairs! Of course he did!), and the put upon wife who gets the shit beaten out of her on a daily basis because Lifetime tells us that's virtuous for some reason. And guess what, Heather Gudenkauf? Being a perpetual victim doesn't make someone sympathetic. It makes her a coward.

Seriously, I can't begin to imagine how over-educated this terrible writer is. I can guarantee she's got a notebook filled with similar premises in her desk drawer right now. Two little girls are bestest friends, one dimensional characters, dumb mystery that's not actually a mystery, stir in some unrequited love filled with terrible flowery prose and READY SET WRITE!
Profile Image for E.
17 reviews9 followers
August 19, 2009
This book is one of the few books I gave 5 stars to. It was, in two words, absolutely beautiful. It's been a while since I can hardly make my eyes move across the page fast enough. Reading some of the reviews on here, I see not everyone thought it was as awesome as I did, but for some reason, this book really 'spoke' to me.

The characters Ben and Petra especially touched my heart.

"You ran upstairs to your room and wouldn't even look at me for the next ten days. But I knew you were sorry. I kept finding Tootsie Rolls under my pillow every day for the next two weeks." This quote (and I suppose the whole scene) was my favourite)

Also, the scene where Calli first meets Petra and the two share a sandwhich and jump rope pulled at my heart.
Profile Image for Kristine.
46 reviews17 followers
January 17, 2010
I loved this story. I thought it was compelling and moving.

The story is about two girls who go missing from their own beds early one August morning. The race to find them before night falls is only intensified by the fact that one of the girls' father (a raging alcoholic) is also MIA and may have something to do with it. It reads as a thriller as it changes from one narrative voice to another and each person is experiencing the ordeal from a unique standpoint. When the girls are found there are still several unanswered questions which Calli, a selective mute, cannot answer.

I loved the way Gudenkauf wove the stories of these two families into one. I thought it was intense and kept me reading for 200 pages straight. The pacing of the story was wonderful and did not give you a moment to rest after discovering a new piece of the puzzle, before it was plunging you again into the sad tale of these girls, leaving you on the edge of your seat once more.

Now, onto what I did not like about this book. I really like books that have different narratives, but in this instance, the narratives were not strong enough. There was never a moment where I knew, just by speech or thoughts of a character who's perspective the chapter was from. I think there should have been a huge difference between a 57 year old college professor's narrative voice and a 12 year old boy's. And there simply wasn't. On a personal note, I hate epilogues. I feel that they simply serve as a moment of "and they lived happily ever after, the end..." And I feel that this book could have used a wrap-up, for sure, but just not as cheesy as it was.

Overall, however, I thought it was an amazing story and the plot pacing and development were both great. I really enjoyed it!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Aoibhínn.
158 reviews208 followers
August 11, 2014
An absolutely amazing novel! I found it very hard to put this novel down. This is one of those books, were you're desperate to get to the end, to find out the outcome, but at the same time, you don't want the novel to end. Heather Gudenkauf writes from the perspective of each character, and her descriptions of the violence and the fear that surround Calli and Ben are both breathtaking and heart-wrenching.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,339 reviews1,629 followers
May 12, 2018
A few years back (OK, like 6, whatever, who's counting?) I read Heather Gudenkauf's second novel "These Things Hidden" and I loved it. It was just one of those books that worked for me perfectly at the time, surprised me, and kept me riveted.

MAN, I wish I could say the same about this book.

I actually read (or listened) to this one during my Goodreads Hiatus of 2017, but it just wasn't the same. There were a lot of the same aspects - multiple perspectives and narrators, secrets, regrets, and traumas that are slowly revealed, etc. But it just didn't WORK for me the way that TTH did. Eh, sometimes happens like that.

So when I did my Mulligan read recently, I breezed through mostly to refresh my memory, and make sure that my recollection of feeling "meh" about it wasn't just because I was in a weird place with my reading last year and just couldn't really get into it. It wasn't.

This FEELS like a debut novel. Had I read it before TTH, I probably would have liked it a lot more, but all the ways that TTH worked for me, this did not. The characters just didn't feel right to me. The conclusion and "whodunnit" aspect came out of left field. But mostly, it was just the writing that kept distracting me from the story.

Here's an example of what I mean. In a scene where one of the main perspective characters finds out that her daughter is missing, in the midst of her finding her not in her bed, where she should be, and before confirming to the police that she's missing, the woman goes off on this tangent of thought about how her daughter has a history of bathroom accidents at school. In the audio, even at 2x speed, it's a good 5 minutes long, at least, and DETAILED with things that the mother couldn't possibly know about, even if the school nurse gave her the info. I mean, she's recollecting to the reader a conversation between the school nurse and the woman's mute daughter, AND a conversation between the school nurse and the little girl's teacher, verbatim. She wasn't there, and if anything the nurse would have just given her a heads up about the situation, not a "And then Ms. Jones said... and then I said...." play by play.

It was just distracting. Your kid is missing. Maybe let's focus.

Another way that the writing was distracting was in the descriptions. They were beautiful, lyrical descriptions of the way that the light played off of the dew drops on the leaves or whatever... but it was just too much, and too frequent. I can imagine the beauty of a summer morning, I don't need every blade of grass recounted to me.

This book was more of a "whodunnit" kind of mystery, in a way, than TTH, but it's not clear that that's the case until late in the book. Because of the multiple perspectives, we know that the missing girls are not dead, and that takes a lot of the tension and suspense out of the story.

There was just a lot that didn't work for me in this one. Which is a shame, because I think that Gudenkauf can tell a damn good story if she just gets out of her own way enough to do it. I might check out another of her books, because if the 2nd was as good as it was in comparison to her 1st book (this one), then I can only hope she'll continue improving.
Profile Image for Jennifer .
45 reviews13 followers
November 25, 2012
I will preface this review by stating that once I picked up this book, I could not put it down.

This novel, set in rural, small-town Iowa on a hot summer day, centers around the tragic day in the lives of two American families. Two seven year old girls, neighbours and best friends to one another, go missing from their respective homes on the same early summer morning. The novel chronicles the search for the missing girls.

I love mysteries and suspenseful reads, but I generally anticipate these types of books to be plot driven at the expense of rich character development. This was not the case here. The Weight of Silence is satisfyingly character driven. The story is told from the point of view of six different characters, each of whom is profoundly impacted by the events that take place that hot summer morning. This narrative technique is quite successful, allowing for rich character development.

I was 90% through this book and thought that I would rate it four stars, but I came to the epilogue and it made me cry, so I had to bump up its rating. This book provided me with everything I could ask for in a contemporary novel, including, rich character development and suspense. It was impossible to put down and was emotionally cathartic.

I look forward to trying more of this author's books.

Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,136 followers
January 5, 2013
What a great story full of secrets and who-did-it suspense! Keeps you guessing and interested throughout the entire book.

As two seven year old girls are found missing from their beds, Calli a selective mute and Petra her best friend, the search begins in the woods near their home with Calli's father, a mean drunk who is supposedly away on a fishing trip a likely suspect. The story is told from each character's perspective, Ben, Calli's brother, the girl's parents and Assistant Sheriff Louis, Calli's mothers' high school sweetheart. Really enjoyed it!

Profile Image for Amy Hatvany.
Author 12 books980 followers
May 8, 2013
I tore through this book over two days...the author does a fantastic job with building suspense around the search for two missing little girls.

Profile Image for Laurie • The Baking Bookworm.
1,403 reviews369 followers
November 8, 2017
Going into this book I had expected a mystery about two missing girls and while it does have its moments of suspense it was much more of a lighter character study of a group of broken souls. The book starts off with a good amount of tension and I was easily pulled into the life of Callie, a seven-year-old selective mute who goes missing along with her best friend, Petra.

The story is told via several different points of view and you're not going to like all of the characters who are quite flawed but most of whom have some redeeming quality. But I wish more time was spent fleshing out the characters - Antonia, Griff especially - and I was disappointed that Petra didn't share her POV with the reader. Instead, and surprisingly, she is a very tertiary character.

There was a lot going on in this book - abuse, abduction, small town life, broken marriages, first loves ... and the book was entertaining but if more depth and page time was given to these issues I think the book could have been much better. Weight of Silence (awesome title, by the way) had good tension to keep me interested but this tension falters considerably at the end of the book which is tied up too neatly and includes an epilogue that doesn't add much.

Overall, this is a good beach read that will give the reader a healthy dose of tension to keep the pages turning but remained a lighter read for me even considering the subject matter that is addressed.
378 reviews46 followers
May 30, 2018
I thought I had read all of heathers books! Not sure how I missed this one! I literally could not put this down! The story the short quick chapters wanting to know what happened next! All of the above make for a great book! And didn’t see that coming!
Profile Image for Steve Lindahl.
Author 9 books33 followers
October 1, 2011
Heather Gudenkauf's novel The Weight of Silence is a nearly perfect book with a major flaw. I'm rating this book as five stars because it gives me as much of what I want out of a story as I can get. It's a page turner at times. It has believable and flawed characters. It makes me think about situations from other people's points of view. I can't ask for more than that. Still, I couldn't get my mind off of one problem while I was reading it.

Calli Clark is a young girl, five or six years old, in a troubled family living in Willow Creek, a small, rural town. The trouble in her family comes from her father, Griff, who is abusive and suffers with a serious alcohol problem. Her mother, Toni, is a sweet, loving, woman who is too weak to confront her husband and rationalizes her acceptance of her husband's ways because she wants to keep her family together.

Something has happened to Calli in the past that has caused her to stop speaking. This selective mutism is the reason for the title and it is the force behind everything that happens in this book. It was caused by a family secret that must come out.

Here is where I have trouble with the plot. Calli is an intelligent young girl who can express herself clearly by writing. Gudenkauf makes a point about how many words she can write at an early age. Calli meets with a counselor who gets her to write a journal made up of words and pictures. Clearly, she can express herself with paper and pencil. Yet, except for Mr. Wilson the counselor, no one, not even her mother, gives Calli the opportunity to “speak” on paper. At school she communicates through her friend, Petra, who is so close to Calli she always knows what Calli is thinking.

Calli is taken into the woods behind her home by her father, in a jealous rage. He is convinced that Deputy Sheriff Louis is Calli's biological father because Toni had a relationship with Louis prior to her marriage. At the same time Petra sees something out of her bedroom window and heads into the woods to follow what she saw.

The story is about the search for the two young girls out in the woods. But it is about much more than that. It is a story of human failings and how they affect relationships. It makes me think and keeps me enthralled. For that I can certainly suspend my disbelief about one part of the plot.
Profile Image for Ahtims.
1,469 reviews125 followers
November 26, 2011
This was an incredible thriller with psychological undertones. After a long time, I read a book cover to cover without a single pause in between and it took me 3.5 anxiety-filled hours. This story deals with two seven year olds who disappear from their beds (or so their mothers think). One of them is a selective mute who would not speak after an incident which involved injury to her mother(I cant tell more without spoiler alert). The police and media become involved, suspicions are running to and fro - the huge 1000 plus acre forest which surrounds the small village is being combed for evidence. Complicating the fact is that there was another brutal kidnapping and murder of a 10 year old a few years back, and many think that these missing children may also have endured the same fate. On further probing, we come to dig through the seemingly placid facades of most families. It was powerful and terrible. I had to sacrifice my good night's sleep, as I was compelled to finish the book in one sitting.
Profile Image for Ruth Turner.
408 reviews112 followers
August 24, 2014

For the most part this was an enjoyable read. Just a couple of things bugged me.

The first was the multiple narrators. The chapters all read the same to me. If I got interrupted I often had to scroll back to the beginning of the chapter to find out who's pov it was.

The side story of Petra felt like an after thought.

And the ending. Everything was tied up a just little to neatly and left me feeling flat.

Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
879 reviews2,260 followers
October 13, 2018
At different times, I liked and disliked this story. This book was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2009), Barry Award Nominee for Best Paperback Original (2010), and Edgar Award Nominee for Best Fiction by an American Author (2010), so I expected to really be blown away by this book. Instead I found myself reading a pretty predictable plot that at times didn’t fully interest me. If it wasn’t for the wonderful narrating cast of the audiobook then I would have DNFed this audiobook very early on. Many people thought the beginning is the best part but I honestly thought it was just okay as it laid the ground work for people’s relationships, the girls’ friendship, and how the events of the terrible day happened. It wasn’t until I was 54% into the book, in the scene where we’re brought back to how the novel started, that I found my interest grow tremendously. There are attempts to tackle serious questions that realistically exist for many people sadly. An example is whether someone who you know is capable of doing bad things could escalate in their violence.

This book has many points of view, to be more specific, Petra, their immediate family members, and Deputy Sheriff Lewis.This can make the book a little muddied but the narration of different narrators and stating each section with the person’s name helped me keep everything in order. It also helped set the stage for the serious questions that I mentioned earlier. Everyone reacts differently to situations and we’ve heard many versions from other books and the news, so what choices these characters make make sense in a psychological and emotional sense. This doesn’t mean that the reader has to agree or even like them. I found myself unsatisfied with some of these decisions, especially towards Antonina “Toni” aka Calli’s mom. A downside to these multiple view points is that it tends to drag the story on; if you aren’t into slow burning books then this might bother you as a reader. The view points play off each other pretty well but I was getting a little annoyed when it switched to a worried parent’s view to deputy sheriff thinking about his son and talking to higher ups. Think focusing on fewer people would have helped keep the focus on what was most important, which is the missing girls.

The last thing I’ll mention is that I didn’t necessarily like the epilogue. Some of my questions that I had were answered but they made me mad. Literally the marriages of two characters ended and they have always loved each other but one refuses to date the other while he plays surrogate parent. I understand waiting a while but when you’re dreaming about this person while you’re married… I have to call B.S. on this ending. It doesn’t make sense. For many people the ending was contrite and I have to agree with them.

I can see why many people liked this slow burn contemporary thriller, but it just didn’t grab my attention like I expected it to. When it did it ended up falling flat. It wasn’t really a mystery who the kidnapper was, the author gave a big clue in the book, but if you like psychological based books to see why people do what they do and how they would act in these situations then give this book a shot. I would recommend the audiobook as it was the best part of my experience. Overall, I have to give my experience with this book a 2.75 rating.
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews209 followers
July 17, 2016

Kalbanti tyla gali būti sunkiai ištveriama. Ji gali priversti jaustis lyg sulėtintame kine, pasimetimo, bejėgiškumo ir baimės apsuptyje.

Visa tai knygoje yra pristatyta įtraukiančiai su įtampos ir paslapčių prieskoniu. Joje pateiktas nusikaltimas yra žiaurus ir pati istorija skamba kaip tikra non-fiction, bet prisipažinsiu – man palengvėjo kad ši knyga visgi yra vaizduotės vaisius. Bet tai nereiškia kad tikrovėje taip nebūna.
Man labai patiko kad kiekvienas skyrius atspindi vis kito veikėjo jausmus ir potyrius, autorė net gi pakaitalioja pasakojimo stilių: vienur informacija pateikiama trečiu asmeniu, kitur pirmu. Pats rašymo stilius ir pateikimas tikrai sužavėjo, o vat istorija man kartais priminė F1 su Pitstopais. Jau atrodo įsibėgėjo ir tada sulėtėja ir taip kelis kartus. Knygos pradžia mane sudomino ir įtraukė, bet tie Pitstopai... na jie pagadino įdomumą šiek tiek. Žinoma grįžimai į praeitį yra svarbūs istorijos pateikimui.
Kad ir kaip bebūtų, man tai ne trileris ar siaubo istorija - skaitant šią knygą ne kartą spėliojau ir jaudinausi kas čia bus toliau. Įtampą didžiulė. Skaitant jaučiausi sujaudinta Kali, jos geriausios draugės ir jų šeimų gyvenimo istorijų. Tikrai emocionali, už širdies griebianti knyga, kurioje yra nemažai įtampos su įdomiu detektyviniu pateikimu.
Profile Image for Britany.
966 reviews418 followers
November 20, 2012
I would give this one 3.5 stars.

2 young girls go missing one early morning and this book follows the day from many different character perspectives. Each chapter changes to another person and their take on what is going on. The way that the novel was laid out held my attention and made it really easy to keep reading right through it. I couldn't wait to see what happened in the end. I loved how when one chapter ended, the next chapter picked up right where the last one left off, without leaving anything out for the audience. Brilliantly written.

Characters were very strong, and some of them you hated, and some you felt emotionally tied to. Overall, the strength of some of these characters comes directly from the nasty parts of other characters. I think that unfortunately, this types of broken households exist all too often today.

The only downside to this book for me was the epilogue, I thought that the entire book was strong, and then the ending just didn't really seem necessary to get the point across.
29 reviews
June 6, 2015
Quick read and a page turner for me. The author kept me guesses as to who was responsible in hurting Petra.
Profile Image for Michelle.
88 reviews2 followers
December 9, 2009
I could not put this book down! I read it over two days and was just captivated by the characters and also by the description of the woods where most of the action takes place. They were magical & romantic at times, and scary & forboding at others and also hold meaning to each of the characters.

The main character of the story is Calli, a child who has selective mutism (meaning there is no medical reason she cannot speak, but she doesn't speak) as a result of experiencing a family trauma. Over the course of two days while she is missing, her history begins to unravel through the perspectives of the other characters in the book (her mother, her brother, her best friend, her best friend's father, and the town's deputy sheriff). As the story unfolds, we begin to understand what life is like for little Calli, and we learn what has lead to her mutism.

I started to love her little friend Petra who was outgoing and spunky and stood up for Calli against the kids who made fun of her and the adults who grew frustrated with her. Her brother was also a favorite character: kind-hearted and protective of her and really seemed to understand her.

Calli's father is an abusive alcoholic and while you never really like him, I felt like that realities of living with an alcoholic were portrayed accurately, and without bias. It seems like sometimes an author can either really play up the pity card of the horrible disease of alcoholism or can really make you judgmental against the alcoholic and I didn't feel like this author did either...it was presented as a very matter-of-fact, unfortunate presence in these people's lives.

Each character in this novel seems to have their weaknesses, doubts, obstacles, and trials & it was interesting to watch how each reacted to them. The novel reveals the experiences, situations, and decisions that led them to this point in the story.

My take-aways from this novel are:

(1) to remember that you do not know what other people are dealing with in their lives (alcoholism, abuse, bad marriages, childhood issues) or where they are coming from, so don't judge them, but help when you think you can (like little Petra speaking for Calli and Louis looking out for Toni).

(2) to value the true friends that you have in life because they are such a blessing & you will be there for each other through thick and thin. Calli & Petra were there for each other in each one's moment of need; Louis was there for Toni.

(3) Finally, no one is perfect, we all have things that feel like we could have done better, which may be true, but you can't undo the past...you can only do better today and tomorrow. So let go of it, learn from it and put your best foot forward. It seemed like Toni was very hard on herself for the parenting decisions she made, but to me the real questions should be not if she did everything right, but did she do everything she could given the circumstances & is she striving to be better in the future?

In reading some of the other reviews, I see that others were critical of the literary value of this book. They are correct...the writing style is not all that sophisticated, there aren't many examples of literary tools in use here...so if you're looking for something that can be evaluated for a literature class, you'll be disappointed; however, if you're looking for something that keeps your attention and helps you pass some time, this is a good way to do it.

I did feel like there were a few times that you could tell the author threw in some red herrings. To me, a good suspenseful book is one in which you continue believing that it could be anyone until the end. But I felt like the way she threw in a few of them, you could tell that's what she was trying to and it didn't succeed in creating the suspense I wanted.

I do agree with other readers that one of the weaknesses of this book is that it is told by different points of view (which is fine if you can do it well) but the voices aren't distinct enough to support that style of writing. Calli's voice is different because it is always told third-person, past-tense, while everyone else's is first-person, present-tense. And Ben's voice is different because it is written like a teenage boy. But the rest of the voices were too similar.

In hindsight, I do wonder about the odds of the circumstances...it seems like a stretch that two girls would go missing at the same time, the same day, in the same woods and have two entirely different, horrible stories.

But even given all that, it kept me turning pages. I would definitely recommend it for people looking for a book that will keep their attention and entertain them.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Carmaletta Hilton.
166 reviews15 followers
July 29, 2009
This was interesting. The changing points of view didn't give me nearly as many problems as I thought that it would. In the beginning, it made everything a bit jerky, but as I got used to it, I just sort of flowed from one person's mind to another, as if I were in a room with these people and each person's thoughts came at me from all angles. I also found it interesting how all, except one, of Ben's parts were written to Callie, as though he were talking to her instead of telling some unnamed reader a story. I did wonder, though, why we didn't get to see Griff's mind in all of this. He seemed to be the only central character who didn't get his own parts, and I can only suspect that it's because it would be hard to make Griff the red herring in Petra's disappearance if he had his own parts. Also very interesting was that Calli's parts were all written in 3rd person past, until the epilogue. She didn't speak, not even directly to the reader until she released her voice.

All of the voices were different, although at times I felt that the children's voices felt a little too adult. I kept forgetting that Ben was 12, thinking him more like 15 or 16. I also had to remind myself that Petra and Calli were only 7 years old.

I would have liked more than just Calli's description of the aftermath that was in the epilogue. We got an entire book of people saying Griff had done these horrible things, and yes, he did some atrocious things. He just happened to be innocent of the thing he was currently being accused of. We were in Martin Gregory's head every time he blamed someone else, but we weren't able to be in his head except one small time when it turned out that it wasn't Toni who brought this person into his daughter's life, but that he was the one that brought him around. We felt such raw emotion through all the parts that I felt a little cheated that I didn't get to really feel his emotions there. In fact, in Martin's last part, he really didn't seem to be affected by it at all.

The ending really did just feel rushed, as though the big part of the story was over. Everything after Calli telling Ben and the doctors who hurt Petra felt like just a quick wrap-up. We never got to experience Petra's feelings about who had taken her and what it was like to switch roles with Calli in their friendship. We didn't really get to feel Toni coming to grips with the fact that Griff was the reason that Calli didn't speak, other than her brief "It was you" moment with him before he was killed. The wrap-up was just a little too quick and tidy for me.

I also got the feeling that I was supposed to feel some kind of relief that Griff had been killed, but the way the scene played out, I could only partially feel that. He was a flawed man that did horrible things to his family and other people when he drank. He deserved some kind of punishment for what he did, but I can't say that he deserved his death. I also felt that killing Griff gave Toni an easy way out. She never really had to stand up to him, she never had to make the hard choices. Griff was killed and the hardest thing she had to do was explain it to the children, and they didn't even take it that hard. He was a mean drunk and he died, now let's paint the house yellow and start hanging out with Louis. *shrug* I don't know. It goes back to my idea of the quick, tidy ending.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was different than my usual fare, and I swept right through it. If you're in a book club, I'd recommend this as a pick because, even without the questions printed in the back, this book was made for discussion.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,548 reviews80 followers
January 12, 2011
I have mixed feelings about this book – I liked it and I didn’t like it. I felt the beginning was great but then began to get weighed down with way too many words and too many details and then seemed a long time in getting to the end. After all that, we never did find out why one girl was even taken!

At four years of age little Callie stopped talking due to something her father said to her on one particular day but no one knows about this other than Callie herself. Callie’s mother Antonia is heartbroken as is her brother Ben when they discover that Callie has stopped being verbal. Petra is Callie’s best friend and she does all the talking for Callie and seems to just know and sense what it is she wants to ask or say and says it for her. Her brother Ben always looks out for her as well so Callie has lots of people to keep her occupied and interested.

One day both Callie and her best friend Petra disappear and each character’s point of view is written chapter-by-chapter in the first person which is fine but the writing just lacks ‘something’. The story is told in one day which is the one day that Callie and Petra were missing in the woods.

I feel that the author had very good intentions in writing and telling this story, but the book lacked character and plot development. It wasn’t a bad book at all, just not one that I personally would highly recommend and was a bit disappointed in. Not every single person loves every single book, but perhaps you will enjoy it.
Profile Image for Dee.
181 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2012
This was a hard and heavy read. Two girls, best friends, go missing one day in the middle of the woods at 4:30 AM. The little town is frenzied by their dissapperance.

The author does well at developing the characters. She makes sure that you love some characters and hate others. Intially, I was disappointed because I thought I had predicted the ending but I was so very wrong. It took a completely different turn toward the end. There were some moments, however, that I thought the author went into too much detail and I hoped she would just getto the point. But, don't all good author's make you feel that way sometimes.

All in all an excellent novel. It sucked me in early and held me until the end.
Profile Image for Rick.
Author 118 books1,018 followers
June 30, 2012
You know how, when you read a really great book, one you really love, that you slow down when you know you have those last few pages left, simply so you can savor them? The Weight of Silence was one of those books for me. Filled with heart-pounding suspense, unique, well-crafted characters that were all too human in their foibles and strengths, and a main character (Calli) whom I truly came to love, this is probably one of my favorite books this year. It's my first Heather Gudenkauf book and my testimony to it is I've already bought her other two. If you want a book that not only keeps you on the edge of your seat, but touches your heart as well, try The Weight of Silence.
Profile Image for Carol.
353 reviews330 followers
March 9, 2012
Well written and suspenseful. I enjoyed listening to an audio version of this novel, which was told through multiple voices with various points of view. It was as much about the complexities of living in an dysfunctional, alcoholic home as it was a mystery, although I did have to sit in the garage a few times in order to wrap up a segment of the CD. The author realistically depicts the "elephant in the living room" behavior within a family, in which the alcoholic member significantly impacts the remainder of the family...yet no one talks about it.
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