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The Weight of Silence
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The Weight of Silence

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Emma | 17 comments “I will never wish for you to speak, never silently beg you to talk. You are here…Your voice, not unsure or hoarse from lack of use but clear and bold…Your chosen word doesn’t make sense to me. But it doesn’t matter, I don’t care. You have finally spoken.” (pg 2).

This book is all about a two young girls who both disappear on the same night and how their lives and stories become intertwined through their ordeals and their case. Calli is a kindergarten that has not spoken for a couple of years because of some hidden past trauma that comes to light later in the book. This quote foreshadows to something horrific that obviously happened and it becomes the hook that drags on into the book. Through the eyes of Calli, we find that people will always internalize their pain, and young children will blame themselves for their surroundings. The other young girl Petra is seen leaving her house in the middle of the night to meet up with an unidentified friend. This shows how trusting kids are in that they never see the evil and darkness in the world. Petra becomes prey to somebody who betrayed her child innocence. In today’s world, we are accustomed to losing children to the evil in this world, and this book shows the blatant sadness and darkness within this world.


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Emma | 17 comments “The children would play an intricate game they dubbed Train Robbery, for which there were many rules, often unspoken and often developed on the spot as the game progressed. I have seen them leap from the highest point at the top of the train and land on the ground with a thump that to me sounds bone crushing. However, inevitably, the children sprang back up and brushed at the dirt that clung to their behinds, no worse for wear” (pg 46).

Kids are the most resilient of people because they are so happy they tried. Gudenkauf uses this quote to remind the reader how no matter where these two girls end up or what they endure, they will both survive because they are strong. This quote comes from Petra’s father who is in the midst of looking for their young daughter. She gives the reader and inside look to the pain of a father who believes he failed his job of protecting his child. Gudenkauf is able to give the reader multiple viewpoints in the story to create a well-rounded experience for those of us who have never been in such a hard and painful place. She is an amazing writer because she elicits feelings of despair and hope that creates a mixture of emotions pushing us deeper into the story. This is one book that you cannot put it down because you feel obligated to the girls and their family to find out the truth in the end.


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Emma | 17 comments “’Ben’s still out looking in the woods. He knows where Calli would go,’ Toni says. There is a curious lack of concern in her tone. Incredibly, she doesn’t appear to think anything is actually amiss…Toni’s chin begins to wobble and for the first time since her girl has gone missing, she looks scared. I put my hand on her arm, and she does not pull away” (pg 63, 66).

Deputy Sheriff Louis goes to Calli’s mother’s home with Petra’s father in hopes of find some more evidence. Louis is able to see how Toni, Calli’s mother, has not yet processed the idea that her daughter left home without her consent. She has created this fantasy that both the little girls are in the woods playing an innocent game of tag. The author shows the two ways parents approach this situation. Martin, Petra’s father, spends his days at the police station and following up leads unable to step away. On the other hand, Toni is convinced that nothing is wrong and her daughter could ever be in such an awful situation. Parents react in such opposites and neither is right or wrong, because the situation itself is completely flawed. It is hard to read this book because we begin to feel like the parents and feel their despair and heartbreak.


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Emma | 17 comments "I knew you felt so terrible. Between the smacks I could see you trying to say the words, but you just couldn’t. I knew you would’ve if you could. Finally Dad got tired and said, “Hell! You both are helpless.” (pg 96)

This was one of Ben’s flashbacks and showed how both him and his sister were treated. Their father treated them both poorly and took out his pent up anger on them. This showed how Ben was truly a good brother and it showed on how he never blamed his sister for the beatings he received. Abuse has the ability to end friendships and tear apart families, but it helped bring Calli and Ben together. Both kids kept their encounters from their mother because they never wanted to make her life any harder. We have yet to discover why Calli doesn’t speak, but this shows how the experience truly traumatized her. The books is named Weight of Silence which shows how being silent has caused herself and her family pain. Ben was forced to grow up fast and learned to hide away from his father. Everyone learns to deal and overcome their hardships and it is hard to overcome this intense pain.


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Emma | 17 comments “In the swelter of summer, our daughter missing, Fielda has pulled the bedcovers up around her head, and I can hear her breath in sleep, heavy and even. I touch Fielda’s shoulder before treading softly from the room and closing the door behind me.” (pg 149)

Fielda and Martin are the parents to Petra. This book shows how a family deals with the loss of a child. Fielda tries to hide from the world by lying within her bed and covering herself with a sheet. She believed that this could save herself from the pain. Martin is the father who has to hold his marriage together under the weight of a missing child. The story shows how Martin spends his days searching for Petra and holding his wife together in hopes of having a family when Petra comes home. He has convinced himself that Petra will come home and that there will be a happy ever after. It is interesting seeing the dichotomy between the two families. Calli’s mother never leaves the house and has convinced herself that Calli will come home without help or worry. Ben is similar to Martin in that he believes that something terrible has happened to Calli and wants to go searching for her.


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Emma | 17 comments “Calli, I’d never hurt anyone. I’m not like Dad, I’m not. I’d never hurt you. I’ll find you, even if it takes all night. I’ll bring you home and then they’ll know” (pg 153).

Growing up in an abusive home causes severe emotional, physical, and psychological wounds to a child. Ben has fought his whole life to be different then his dad, and in this one moment he comes to portray him. Ben ends up running into the woods to find his beloved sister in order to restore his reputation and show the world he is no longer like his father. With one mistake, Ben has been labeled a mischief creator and a good for nothing. He never had a chance to live a normal life and be treated like a normal kid. When being forced into playing a role, a child feels as if they have no choice but choose that road. Yet, this little mistake of hitting another kid showed Ben’s humanity. Ben was protecting himself and other kids from a bully who would turn out just like his father. He should not be blamed for standing up for the weaker man. This small town is teaching Ben that it does not matter who you are but how others perceive you.


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Emma | 17 comments “’My daughter is missing and you think that your husband’s drinking has nothing to do with it? Maybe, maybe not. And while we’re talking about it, what about your son? Where is he right now? He sure spent a lot of time with the girls. Kind of odd, if you ask me. A teenager hanging out with a bunch of first graders’’” (pg 190).

This is quote gets to me because this mother is extremely saddened by the disappearance of her daughter and chooses to turn her anger against those around her. Fielda, Petra’s mother, begins to blame the other missing daughter’s family for her daughter’s disappearance. It shows the heartache and pain that would turn family against family, mother against mother. Fielda up until this point in the story convinced herself that Petra was just out with friends rather than missing. Now Fielda is forced to face reality and does not know how to respond. This quote really pulls at my heartstrings because I can feel the pain and desperation within her tone. Yet, this also affects Antonia, Calli’s mom. She must face the problems and discourse within her family. Antonia has let her husband drink without consequences and told herself it was not a problem. Now both mothers are forced to face the reality in which they have tried so hard to hide form.


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Emma | 17 comments “I think I shocked him by not falling over and crumpling into a little ball like a baby. I’d grown a lot this summer, gotten a lot stronger. He bounces offa me like a spring and falls backward. He looks funny, the surprise on his face. I would laugh, if the look on his face didn’t scare me to death.” (pg 214)

Ben has found Petra, Calli, and his dad in the woods and decides to become a man to protect his family. He allows Calli to run for help and begins to fight his dad. This is the first time that Ben has stood up to his dad and felt as though he was strong enough to win. Abusers prey on the weak and the defenseless and this shows how Ben is no longer a poor kid waiting for the next punch. I love the underdog story and the feeling the wells up when they win. Every reader is backing Ben because he has spent his life in the shadows of his father. It is time for his father to taste his own medicine. Yet, there is a sense of misunderstandings within this scene. Ben sees his father bent over a beaten and abused Petra and he comes to the distinct conclusion of guilt. However, we come to find out that he never hurt Petra. Even evil men can have a good heart, because the father was trying to help Petra when Ben happened upon them.


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Emma | 17 comments “I often look back upon that day, so long ago, and wonder how it was we all survived. For each one of us it was a dark, sad day. Especially for my mother, I think, though she always says, ‘it was good in some ways. You found your voice that day, Calli. That made it a good day.’” (364)

In the end, we find out why Calli lost her voice. It turns out her father told her that she killed a person with her voice and because she was so young she believed it. Her father stole from her the most precious gift: innocence and happiness. Petra and Calli were able to come home safe and sound, but they were changed by their experience in the woods. Petra was raped by a family friend and moved away because she never felt safe again within the small town. Calli lost a friend but gained her voice and strength. This story showed the progression of family and abuse within the viewpoints of multiple characters. We saw the panic, denial, and determination within the adults. The desperation and regret within Ben. When Petra spoke it was deep sadness and loneliness. We learned how the deepest sins of a community affect the children within our homes.


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