Yasmin, a beautiful astrophysicist, and her precocious deaf daughter, Ruby, arrive in a remote part …

Review of 'The quality of silence' on 'LibraryThing'

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I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher through Early Reviewers. And I'm glad I did. This novel manages to be a tender story about family, a rip-roaring wilderness adventure, and an eco-thriller set in in the high arctic. returnreturnYasmin, an English astrophysicist, has had a falling out with her husband, who has been working in Alaska on a wildlife film. When she takes their eleven-year-old daughter Ruby to Fairbanks to have it out with Matt, he fails to pick them up at the airport. Instead, the police break the news to her that the village he has been staying in has been destroyed in a catastrophe. They aren't quite sure what caused it, but a huge fire enveloped the community and there are no survivors. The bodies are too burnt to identify, but they are sure Matt is among them. She refuses to believe that he's dead and decides to go look for him. With Ruby, who really owns this story. returnreturnThe problem the author poses for readers is to suspend disbelief that an intelligent, well-educated woman would be so pigheaded and sure of herself that she would insist on taking her child to a remote part of the high arctic in the middle of winter to find a husband who the authorities are certain has perished. Though very few people would do that, the real challenge is accepting that a smart and loving mother would risk her daughter's life on this quest. She doesn't know anyone in Fairbanks who could take care of Ruby while she goes on this mission, so they go together, aided by a kind truck driver who hasn't been told the whole story. Yasmin has an emotional blind spot that keeps her from weighing the challenge she takes up rationally. Ruby just wants to find her dad. Though the question of why a smart woman would act this recklessly never quite left me throughout the novel, Lupton is up to this engineering feat of coaxing me across her disbelief-suspension bridge as Yasmin and Ruby head north. returnreturnIt probably helps that half of the novel is in Ruby's expressive voice (that expressiveness not diminished by the fact that she's deaf - she has plenty to say, but strongly prefers signing to the vocal speech her mother promotes, hoping to give her daughter a better crack at life; Ruby's sure she handle life without it, thanks very much). She's young enough to believe that both her mother and father can overcome all the obstacles, and she's great company, besides. Likewise, I loved the way the author presents the beauty of an austere wilderness threatened by our rush to extract ancient carbon from the land, heedless of the damage it does. returnreturnI also appreciated the way this story, which involves big trucks, extreme weather, ice roads, and fierce physical determination, is told so much from the perspective of a woman and a girl who are trying to make their family whole. It's a rip-roaring adventure with an environmental theme that is full of feeling and absent of the individualistic posturing of so many adventure-thriller stories. Because the author writes about emotions so compellingly, not relying on special effects to drive us forward, I sometimes felt myself looking over the suspension bridge (don't look down!) but nevertheless enjoyed this story tremendously, in large part because the setting, characters, and writing style are all so strong. Lupton is a compelling and gifted writer; I'm happy to cut a little slack if she's willing to take some narrative risks for a story this absorbing. returnreturnreturnThere was one other bit of grit in my reading: the Alaskans I've known always use the word "snowmachine" instead of "snowmobile" so my inner red pen kept trying to copyedit. In fact, I looked it up and apparently snowmobile is increasingly used in Alaska so stet all that.