Friday, April 16, 2010

The Weight of Silence, by Heather Gudenkaupf

A friend recommended this book, and although I had no idea what it was about, it intrigued me. Subconsciously, I attributed a certain gravitas to whatever the subject of the book might be. "The Weight of Silence" conjured up in me the idea of a story that would examine themes of freedom and voice.

But it didn't take very long at all for me to realize that the gravitas that I thought I would find within its pages was nowhere to be found; this is a Picoult-a-be. Not that there's anything wrong with that. If an author wants to battle Ms. Picoult for the title of "Queen Bee" of authors of suspense novels written for women readers, that's great. I like a lot of Picoult's books, even if I can't always tell them apart. Gudenkaupf uses many of Picoult's tried and true devices: dividing her chapters between alternating narrators, writing one of the characters as a child in peril, tossing in lots of red herrings, and throwing in a big "OH!" moment at the end that is supposed to surprise us and upend the story.

I enjoy an airport kiosk suspense novel as well as the next girl, but "The Weight of Silence" fell short, even by those standards. The characters were written so one-dimensionally, they seemed caricature-like. Stock character number one: the drunk, abusive husband. Stock character number two: the ex-boyfriend of Stock character's beleaguered wife, who still secretly holds a torch for her. I could go on, but I won't waste your time.

Turns out "The Weight of Silence" was not weighty at all. Serviceable? Sure. Worth the time you'll spend to read it? Not really.

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