Thursday, June 7, 2018

Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

In my quest to read more books off my shelves at home, I pulled Not a Sound off a shelf the other day. I have met Heather Gudenkauf at a few book signings at my local B&N (she's an Iowa author) and I've read a few of her novels. They're all set in Iowa, and are thrillers. I have to say this is by far my favorite, and in my opinion, her best yet. She definitely stepped it up.

Quick synopsis: Amelia Winn was a victim of a hit and run which left her profoundly deaf.  It also cost her a career as an emergency room nurse; she became an alcoholic to cope with it all and lost her marriage as a result. Still married, but separated from her doctor husband and step-daughter, Amelia is sober and living in a cabin in the woods. She has learned to lip read and has learned sign language, but is still coping with her deafness and living with her service dog, Stitch. She spends a lot of time kayaking, paddle boarding, and running. One morning she's out paddle boarding, enjoying the peace. She stumbles upon a body in the water. Horrified, she recognizes the body as a fellow nurse that she worked with at the hospital. Amelia's childhood friend Jake, a local detective, arrives at the scene and comforts Amelia. He's the one who took her to AA and taught her sign language, and their friendship is what has kept Amelia sober and straight for the past few years.  

Amelia gets deeply involved in the murder of her friend Gwen, and is determined to figure out why she was murdered and who did it. Amelia's new job, working part time scanning patient files at a prominent oncologist's office leads to clues that something big is going on, if only Amelia can piece it all together. 

Wow. I was sucked into this novel very quickly. Amelia is such a strong character. The author's descriptions of Amelia's world of silence are so well written, you get a very good sense of what it is like to live with no sound all. How isolating it can be, how frustrating it can be. I can't imagine suddenly losing my hearing; how do you cope with that? How do you grieve that loss? One day you're a professional nurse, doing good work, living a happy life; the next you're profoundly deaf and have lost your career and life has changed completely. How do you rebuild your life? Just goes to show the kind of character Amelia is-she's human, and has her weaknesses, but she is one tough woman. 

I thought the mystery was fantastic, and how Amelia figured it out was through hard work and paying attention with all of her other senses. The last fifty pages were a thrill, and I was on the edge of my seat. Amelia is the first deaf main character I've encountered in a novel, and she is pretty impressive. 

If you like Jodi Picoult, I would recommend Heather Gudenkauf. She centers her novels around contemporary issues that are making headlines; one of her strengths is her ability to write about these issues in a small town setting--people face crime, ethical issues, and family issues in every walk of life. Her novels are a quick read and hard to put down. 

Rating:  5/6 for one of the most compelling characters I've come across in a long time. Gudenkauf's heroine is likeable, strong, and introduced me to a world of silence. Great plot, action, and really hard to put down. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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