Silent to the Bone

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E.L. Konigsburg
Walker Books
Oct 2005

It is easy to pinpoint the minute when my friend Branwell began his silence. It was Wednesday, November 25, 2.43 pm, Eastern Standard Time. It was there � or, I guess you could say not there � on the tape of the 911 call.

You couldn�t wish for a better start � a better �hook� - to get you into this mystery cum exploration of the nature of friendship. Concise, accessible and dramatic, Silent to the Bone gives us first that terrifying 911 call verbatim. A baby has been harmed, possibly dropped, and must be rushed to hospital. The baby is Branwell�s half sister. Branwell is blamed by the babysitter, and his total silence seems to confirm his guilt. From here on, from Branwell sitting like stone in his cell in the detention centre, just as baby Nikki lies silent in her coma, we are taken backwards and forwards in time by narrator Connor as he alone sticks by his friend and tries to piece together what happened on that fateful afternoon and (more importantly) why it happened. In this, Connor is helped, appropriately, by his own half sister, grown up Margaret, who is smart enough to help him interpret his clues and sensitive enough to nurse him through the corresponding emotional journey. In a smooth arc up towards light and understanding, the puzzle unfolds, Branwell edges towards speech and Nikki struggles to regain health and life.

This is a moving book, carefully written by a craftswoman of the game and there is little to fault. My first impulse was to give it a straight five chicks. Yet on reflection I was a little unsure. The issues of rejection and belonging in modern multi-strand families, of the way that sex can become a world-changing issue for a young, confused teen (does it ever stop?!) and the healing power of forgiveness, love and openness are all beautifully handled. Margaret in particular is a lovely character: anyone would want such a sister. But still, would the circumstances depicted really lead to Branwell�s helpless silence? And how realistic is Connor�s endless introspective attention to detail and his self-analysis? (Her voice trailed off as if she had ended that sentence with a comma and not a period)

No matter. Four chicks or five, this is an excellent book, well worth checking out.

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This page contains a single entry by Patrick Cave published on January 16, 2006 10:03 AM.

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