Published by Crown/Archetype on February 16th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Mystery & Detective, Women Sleuths, Family Life
Format: Print ARC
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Buy on Amazon
A wild ride through the ice roads of Alaska. The plot is far-fetched, but it is a fun adventure. The stars of this book are the brutal setting and a bright ten-year-old girl named Ruby, who is totally deaf.
After several months of separation, wildlife photographer Matt is supposed to be traveling from a remote Inupiaq village to Fairbanks, Alaska to reunite with his wife Yasmin and his daughter Ruby. Yasmin and Ruby are anxious to see him, but he never arrives. The authorities inform Yasmin that he is presumed dead in a catastrophic fire that destroyed the village he was staying in; there were no survivors. Yasmin refuses to believe that he is dead, despite the evidence she is presented with. When the police refuse to search for him, she decides that she is going to find him by any means necessary. Yasmin and Ruby head out on a dangerous road trip through the Arctic Circle to Anaktue, hoping to find Matt before he can succumb to the brutal conditions. Not only do they have the cruel, unforgiving terrain and weather to contend with, but there is a sinister pair of headlights following in the distance. Is it just another ice road trucker or is it someone who wants to stop Yasmin from finding Matt?
A memory played out in front of her, vivid in the darkness. … She’d had this sense before that time was not linear, but bending back on itself. with current emotions finding a sense of themselves in the past.
The Quality of Silence is like a 90s action movie, especially the conclusion. It is completely far-fetched from beginning to end; this is is a story about a woman who who travels through the dangerous Arctic Circle in the depths of winter, with no experience and her ten-year-old daughter as a passenger! Once I stopped over-thinking it, I enjoyed the ride. The story alternates between Yasmin’s and Ruby’s perspectives, with the occasional interlude from some of the supporting characters. The perspective changes are abrupt and only separated by a paragraph break. It was confusing at first, but the voices are distinct enough that it is easy to adjust. Most of the book is set in Alaska, but there are some flashbacks to the early days of Yasmin and Matt’s relationship.
In the Arctic tundra, it was impossible to feel important but simple to feel connected to something uncircumscribed by time and distance.
The setting was my favorite part! Lupton did an amazing job creating a chilly atmosphere and a hostile environment rife with danger. The cold is described as “predatory and remorseless” and the land as “not just passively hostile but actively aggressive.” A large portion of the book is inside of an 18-wheeler’s cabin, and I felt like I was sitting in there with them. My stomach lurched as they sped through the frozen mountainous terrain!
She felt knifed by love, winded by the sharpness of it. The sensation was oddly familiar, a harsher version of the pain she’d felt in their early days, long before marriage and a child, before there was any tangible security that he’d still be with her tomorrow. And time was no longer stretched out and linear but bent back on itself and broken into fragments so that the young man she’d loved so passionately was as vividly recalled and equally present as the husband she’d argued with eight days ago. [Yasmin]
I never really warmed to Yasmin. She is movie-star gorgeous and an astrophysicist, with exceptional luck and skill. View Spoiler »Yasmin’s professional background is used to explain her relative success at trucking despite inexperience. « Hide Spoiler Despite her supposed brilliance, the decisions she makes are baffling, even accounting for the shock of discovering that her husband is most likely dead. I was mortified that she was in a situation where leaving her ten-year-old daughter with random truckers seemed like a good idea! In the beginning of the book, Yasmin was concerned that Matt was having an affair with an Inupiaq woman and I’m still not sure why visually confirming that there was wildlife in Alaska made her immediately certain that Matt was trustworthy.
“She has to learn to survive in the real world,” Yasmin had said. …”The real world thing, it’s bollocks. The world is a million different places and Ruby will find the place she wants to be.” [Matt]
Yasmin is also constantly on Ruby’s case about using her speaking voice. I felt so uncomfortable every time she asked Ruby to “use her words.” As frustrating as her requests are, Yasmin’s motivations became understandable and her concerns came from a good place. Yasmin does experience quite a bit of character growth throughout the book. The time alone in the cab gives Yasmin a chance to bond with Ruby and finally listen to her “voice.” Whether they find Matt or not, the arduous journey becomes a pivotal point in the mother-daughter relationship.
Being deaf isn’t something I can change. Mum doesn’t understand this but I don’t know if I even want to. It’s my Ruby-world, a quiet world that I look at and touch and sometimes taste but don’t hear. Dad says quietness is beautiful. So maybe my world is lovelier than other people’s. And maybe making sounds I can’t hear in my quiet world would spoil everything.
I didn’t care whether they found Matt alive, dead, or at all, but I did care that Ruby made it out of this trip safely. She was such an awesome kid! She was so resourceful and I loved how she utilized technology, especially her eavesdropping method. She was also very articulate. She expressed the reasons why she was uncomfortable using her speaking voice with such clarity and confidence. Yasmin is constantly pressuring Ruby to integrate with the hearing world, but Ruby manages the “real world” on her own terms.
Another favorite character was Adeeb Azizi, a trucker Yasmin and Ruby meet during their journey. Adeeb and Ruby are both treated like outsiders and they form a quick bond. Yasmin gained a different perspective from watching them interact. View Spoiler »I wish he had played a bigger role in the story and I hope the check Yasmin handed him was enough to cover the damage to his truck! « Hide Spoiler
What we know is filtered by our flaws, and sometimes turned more beautiful by them.
The thing that drove me crazy was the slang in Ruby’s sections, especially the phrase super-coolio. The frequency with which it was interspersed in the text felt unnatural and the term seemed outdated. Maybe kids do still use that word, but I did find coolio on a recent list of 18 Slang Words That Will Make You Sound Like an Old Fart. Awesome sauce was the second most annoying term used. “Even though I can’t hear the screechy sound, I get the general uggghness. But the satellite is OMG in a coolio, not screechy way…” To be fair, Ruby doesn’t always express her thoughts like this but it is a distinct part of her voice.
I enjoyed the conclusion and I loved Ruby’s journey over the course of the novel. In Quality of Silence, the characters discover the power of words and how a voice can come in many different forms. Ruby’s parent’s professions that deal with the natural world play a part in showing the smallness of humans in relation to the universe and the tricks that time plays on us. This book fostered a greater interest in Deaf culture, Alaska, Inupiaq culture, fracking and ice road trucking. I spent a long time on YouTube watching various ice road trucking shows. TERRIFYING! Recommended to anyone looking for some fun escapism and who wants to do a little bit of traveling to the Arctic Circle from the comfort of home.