The Quality of Silence, by Rosamund Lupton (2016)

The Quality of SilenceWhen Yasmin Alfredson arrives at the Fairbanks airport, she is expecting her film photographer husband Matt. Instead, the Alaska State Police tell her he is one of 24 people killed in a fire that levelled the tiny remote village where he was staying the winter. She refuses to believe it, pointing to a dropped phone call in the middle of the U.K. night just before she and daughter Ruby flew out. Ignoring police entreaties to accept the painful evidence of his wedding ring and satphone in the ashes, Yasmin sets out for Anaktue, Ruby in tow. Planes are grounded due to weather, and she finds a trucker heading north who agrees to take them partway, accepting her story of meeting a tour group. Lupton’s characters are deeply affecting. The narration alternates between third-person for Yasmin and the first-person voice of ten-year-old Ruby, who is deaf. To communicate, she and her mother use sign language, and Ruby occasionally uses “Voice Magic” software to translate words of others, including the radio. I loved Ruby’s zest for life, her joy in words (she tweets her perceptions of how words feel, look, and smell, in a way that is obviously brief and still movingly accurate), and her deep love and loyalty for her parents. Yasmin is a complex character – she is angry with Matt for kissing another woman, but also for what she sees as coddling Ruby. Yasmin knows the pain of loss and loneliness, and she desperately wants Ruby to be equipped for the real world. She is also an astrophysicist, and one stubborn mama! I loved her determination. She reminds me of my own mother, who let nothing stop her when she decided she wanted something. When she realizes she has to find her own way to Anaktue, and there is no safe place to leave Ruby, she accepts the fact she is taking Ruby into danger and does everything she can to protect her daughter from the killing cold, the threat of an avalanche, and the menacing blue headlights that are following them down a lonely highway. As others have pointed out, the last third of the book makes a shift in writing, tone, and plot speed that is jarring. Lupton is at her best describing the intimate world between Ruby and her mother, and the Alaskan landscape from ice-covered plain to star-filled sky. She relies on some improbable events to push the story to its climax. Don’t let this stop you from picking up this book, as it is a compelling thriller with memorable, appealing characters, authentic dialogue, vivid descriptions and an enjoyable plot. My thanks to Crown Publishing for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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