This book has the haunting quality of one you would expect that is set in Alaska where the weather couldn’t have been more at odds with the heat wave we were experiencing when I read it.
Yasmin has gone to Alaska with her ten-year old daughter Ruby to meet up with her husband Matt. Matt has been on an extended trip to the country to film the wildlife but with communications hard to maintain and a friendship with a local woman to boot Yasmin isn’t entirely sure how they will work things out but she is set on delivering an ultimatum to Matt despite being aware of what the loss of a parent can do to a child, let alone a fairly isolated child like Ruby who is deaf.
On arriving in Alaska, Matt is not there to meet them and it isn’t too long before Yasmin is told that he perished in a fire that swept through the village where he had been staying; there were no survivors. Yasmin goes into instant denial and persuades a trucker to take her partway to the village before the expected storm hits.
This is a story about love in all permutations within a family. Yasmin remembers the early days with Matt in flashback while part of her journey across this white, cold and bleak land is told in the third person some sections are told in the first person present tense. Ruby tells her story too, from her perspective as she joins her mother on the road-trip to find her father. Ruby uses sign language and we realise the limitations when it’s dark, so she also has a computer app that can convert speech into typed words, to reply Ruby types the words and the computer synthesizes a voice. Yasmin’s goal is to get Ruby to speak which she has refused to do for the last couple of years, the explanation given by Ruby in the book is perfectly understandable but so is Yasmin’s fears for her daughter’s future. The absent Matt is much more accepting of Ruby’s deafness which has created an underlying conflict between the parents.
The premise to the book is great, I loved Ruby’s character although her relentless good cheer and hopeful nature seemed slightly at odds with how a child would behave in such a hostile environment. I’m afraid I felt like I was on the journey with them across a landscape where little changes and the endless bundling into every item of clothing whenever they had to leave the truck. I understand the need for authenticity but I quickly tired of how such and such a task could only be done with the glove liners and not the warm gloves that prevent frostbite! In truth the scene setting for the true mystery took over two-thirds of the book, and I lost interest partly because little happened and partly because I didn’t believe that the actions taken by Yasmin were realistic although I get that this story was really a love conquers all, or does it? themed book.
There were clues to the mystery scattered amongst the pages but I don’t think anyone would struggle to work out what might have happened to Matt. The consequence of this is that the tension which would have tightened this story was removed.
I really enjoyed Sister which was this author’s debut novel and her second book Afterwards was also an interesting read but for me this one just didn’t work despite the brilliant descriptions of Alaska and other elements which were genuinely interesting the story didn’t quite gel for me.
I’d like to thank the publishers Little Brown Book Group for my copy in return for this review. The Quality of Silence was published on 2 July 2015.