The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am trying something new. This book was very good, and sucked me in from the very beginning, and I finished in the 2nd day of reading. I just couldn’t put it down. There was a discussion guide in the back of the book – so I decided to answer the questions in the discussion guide. So beware, while the discussion guide had done a fairly good job of not asking questions that give too much away – I’m sure that you will get a basic jest of the story and might consider the following spoilers!! Don’t read if you’re planning on reading the book!
1. Antonia describes herself as a bad mother while Louis reassures her that she is, indeed, a good mother. What evidence from the book supports each of their beliefs? How does Louis’s history with Antonia affect his own decisions as a husband and father?
Antonia is a good mother when it comes to almost everything that does not have to do with Griff. She plays with her kids, tells them stories, takes them for walks in the woods. Antonia has taken the advise of doctors and is working with Calli’s condition the best that she can. Unfortunately, where her husband’s concerned, Antonia has dropped the ball. While Griff may not mean to be abusive, and does not have intentions on hurting his kids, he does over and over again. Instead of looking at what he is doing and what he has done, Antonia chooses to turn a blind eye, thinking that ultimately Griff loves the kids and has no intention of hurting them.
From what we can tell in the book, Louis has dropped the ball in a desperate way. While it is obvious that Antonia still has affection for Louis, she has moved forward with her life and has continued to try and live the life that she wanted. Louis is in a constant looking back mode. He has moved back to his old town, even though as a young adult he indicated there was nothing there for him but Antonia, and it seems as though his thoughts and life might actually be preoccupied with Antonia. He is not seeing what he has, but is constantly looking at what he missed. Antonia shows she does that at times as well – but she is still right there with her family. Louis has shut his wife out of this part of his life, instead of communicating with her. He has put her in a situation where she will always feel second best. His fathering skills weren’t really addressed much, except by the wife – who says he’s never there for his son, Tanner. This could be a matter of perception, or it could be just another way Louis has shut out his current life as a result of living in the past.
2. Antonia and Louis’s long history together is integral to The Weight of Silence. As a deputy sheriff, what, if any, ethical or moral boundaries did Louis cross in search for Calli?
I’m not sure I can appropriately answer this question, as I’m not a cop and know nothing about protocol. Did Louis really break protocol when Calli showed up with Petra’s necklace? You’re dealing with panicked parents, would he have been able to stop Martin from going into the woods after her? In some cases I think it’s better to deal with people on a personal level than the impersonal take Officer Fitzgerald was taking. It eases some of the fear. But that’s just my take on it. I also didn’t feel like he was acting inappropriately toward Antonia, he was trying to help her. He may have been more emotionally involved himself than a cop should be on any case, but in small towns, is there a way not to be emotionally involved?
3. Ben and Calli grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father. Knowing that abuse is often passed from generation to generation, what do you think Ben’s and Calli’s chances of breaking the cycle of abuse in their future relationships? What instances from the book lead you to believe this?
This is a matter of the person, and the person’s decisions, as well as other factors. I also have an alcoholic father, and I also have a younger brother. In my instance, I have made the conscious decision to break the cycle. I saw what alcohol (and drugs) did to my family. I could see how my father changed when he drank. I saw the abuse that came as a result of that alcohol. I made the decision at a very young age that that was not how I wanted to live my life. My brother on the other hand was very young when my parents finally divorced, and did not get to witness as much as I did. His life was harder than mine in a lot of ways. He has recently shown signs that he is moving in the direction of substance abuse, but also since he was spared the chance to witness the physical abuse, he has not leaned in that direction at all. Lack of proper education has probably lead to him carrying on the cycle of substance abuse. Ben and Calli have both witnessed their father sober and drunk. He has felt the results of the abuse. Ben even timelines his father’s behavior by how many cans of beer he has drunk in the book. I feel for sure Ben has acknowledged the problem, and has the determination to move beyond the cycle. Calli, evidenced in her selective muteness, has a tendency to turn into herself and hide. I would think that she would be more likely to turn into substance abuse than Ben. She has also experienced the results of substance abuse, and seen it’s results. Ultimately, both of them have to make the choice not to do it. Especially in the teen years when there is so much peer pressure. I think it is in those years that one could loose control to the disease without even realizing it.
4. How does the death of Antonia’s mother play into the decisions Antonia made as a wife and mother? How do you think Antonia’s life would be different if her mother had lived?
Given that the last bit of advice Antonia’s mother gave to her was that the most important decision she had to make was her husband, and that it was more important to be a good wife than a good mother; I’d say her death played a lot into Antonia’s decisions for herself and her children. I’m a mother of 3 and happily married, and I still rely on my mother as a friend and I value her advise as a mother. Antonia’s mother could not have known what kind of marriage Antonia was going to get into. In fact, she had just assumed Antonia would marry Lou. Also, I feel her death played a huge role, because it is what ignited the fear in Antonia that Lou would leave her while at college, and she was afraid to be left waiting. She was losing people all around her and was feeling very scared, and not very self confident. Griff just happened along and made her feel loved and desired and he was there.
5. Martin Gregory, a proper, disciplined professor of economics, has always valued order, predictability and restraint in all areas of his life. How does his decision to seek retribution against the man he’s sure violated his daughter fit into his belief system?
Well, for starters, this man has broken that order and discipline. He has broken through the protection of everything being as it should be, and the safe feeling that comes with it. But also, I don’t think Martin was acting as that man at all. Rage and adrenaline was pounding through him, and the desire to protect (and the fact that he failed to protect) his daughter took over. Even he knew he wasn’t thinking straight.
6. Antonia, Louis, Martin and Petra’s perspectives are told in the first-person, present-tense point of view, while Calli’s is told in the third person, past tense. Why do you think the author decided to write the story this way?
Funny thing…I didn’t even notice this. I was so wrapped up into the story I didn’t care about what tense it was written in. Anyway, I suspect it’s because this is how Calli sees herself. She’s not a person with a voice, she is a story being told by someone else. She has lost control of her life, and can’t find it. Until then, it’s as if someone else is living (or reading) her life for her.
7. What does the title The Weight of Silence mean to you? How does the title relate to each of the main character’s lives?
Oh, this could take forever if I go through each character individually!!! Mainly I feel that Calli’s silence has affected many people around her. I think it probably intensified Griff’s anger and drinking problem. It has caused Antonia to question her parenting in areas that were she was actually doing a fine job, while at the same time she willingly ignored what she knew to be the problem. She blamed herself, but also admits (within her mind) that she has never asked what Griff said to her, or acknowledges that her husband has anything to do with it. She is constantly taking the blame and protecting Griff. Ben is left to the shadows. Lou is not communicating with his wife or living out the life that he has, living for the past. Martin and Fielda probably feel that their silence on their feelings toward Griff has lead to all of this, sucking their daughter into the mess.
8. Before Calli and Petra’s disappearance, the Willow Creek Woods was a haven for Calli, Ben and Toni. Calli, fearful of the forest after her ordeal, asks her mother if she ever got scared when walking in the woods. Toni replied, “It sent you back to me, didn’t it?” What did Toni mean by this?
Toni feels like the woods had nothing to do with the series of events. I also feel that they hold such good memories, right down to when Calli ran out okay for her view to be tainted. I think that she relied too heavily upon Ben and Calli’s knowledge and familiarity with the woods and failed to take a step back and realize how close to major danger Calli was in as a result of the cover of the woods.
9. Martin Gregory had worked so hard to leave behind his farming roots by becoming a college professor, but after Petra’s abduction and serious injuries, Martin subsequently moved with his family from Willow Creek to a farm. Why did Martin and Fielda decide to do this?
It what was best for them. Martin was familiar with farming, so he didn’t have to learn anything new. Petra likely needed more family support. It also probably is a way of shielding themselves from the outside world. The results of what happened to Petra is naturally to try and trap any bad thing out.
10. Toni describes Calli and Petra as “kindred spirits.” What makes their friendship so special? Do you think Calli and Petra’s friendship will last into adulthood? Why or why not? Who do you consider to be your kindred spirit? Why?
Calli and Petra understand each other, and they do not judge each other. Their differences do not get in the way of their friendship. I believe they have a lasting friendship, they have been through a lot with each other. While there might be falling-outs in the future, they will always be friends.
My husband would be the closest thing to a kindred spirit I have. He understands me, trusts me whole heartedly, and I him. We have a very loving and close bond that I can’t imagine ever growing old.