Summary: “The Quality of Silence” follows the journey of Yasmin and her young, deaf daughter Ruby as they navigate a semitruck on a trek across the dangerous ice roads of Alaska. After they hear about a terrible accident, in which the village hosting their husband and father, Matt, burns to the ground, they refuse to accept that he perished in the fire. With no support from local police, Yasmin hijacks a truck and begins an expedition to go find him. The mother-daughter duo not only have to escape the sinister truck driver stalking them through the storm, but also the unforgiving cold and darkness of the arctic environment, all while overcoming the chasm between them stemming from Ruby’s disability.
What I Liked: One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was the foray into unpopular topics. It’s very rare to read books from the perspective of a person with disabilities; even rarer, it seems like authors almost never explore the struggle faced by the deaf. Through the lens of Ruby, it’s possible to see just how difficult it can be for the deaf to fit into regular society and make connections with the people around them. Though it’s also interesting to see how much of an outlet the internet – and technology in general – can be to help them feel more at ease.
Lipton also chose a very unique setting for her novel. While I’m sure we’ve all stopped on “Ice Road Truckers” at least once while flipping through television, this novel does a great job at describing the utter peril that Alaskan truck drivers face every day. It gives a renewed appreciation not only for those brave souls willing to face the elements, but also the native peoples still roughing it as they uphold their traditional lifestyles.
On a stylistic note, I was initially offput by the quick flip-flopping of character perspectives throughout the novel. However, after a few chapters passed, I enjoyed seeing all of the events play out – and the resulting feelings – in the eyes of the characters, first-hand. The stark contrast between the misgivings, fears, and eventually hope of a mother and the innocence of a young child quickly became a focal point of the novel – even in the midst of danger – and the development of their relationship throughout the journey was, simply put, touching. The novel would have suffered if only in one character’s perspective.
The cover was also pretty – and probably one of the reasons why I picked up the book in the first place.
What I Didn’t Like: The novel was initially a page turner, but as I flew nearer towards the end, I started to have some misgivings as to how every thread started would be resolved. My fears came to fruition as the last few chapters of the book suddenly rushed through an explanation; at risk of spoilers, the story was resolved via deus ex machina and an abrupt ending left me unfulfilled and with many questions – I literally kept checking to see if there were pages missing in my copy. The novel also unexpectedly abandoned its focus on the relationships between the characters and instead attempted to make a political statement for the last several chapters. Regardless on your stance on the matter that Lipton addressed, the transition was jarring and almost made me feel like she was trying to con me into agreeing with her by taking advantage of the characters that I had actually grown to care about throughout the novel. For this reason, while I had thoroughly enjoyed the environmental descriptions and character building in 80% of the novel, I felt a bit betrayed and angered by what seemed (to me) a lazy ending.
Overview: This is a great exploration into the cold and dark world of the frozen Alaskan tundra, and Lipton does a great job of building up the characters of Yasmin and Ruby. It’s one of the few books that addresses the struggles of the deaf world, and examines it through the lens of how the disability can affect interpersonal relationships. However, the ending was a bit of a sham and felt terribly rushed. For that reason, I can only give it a 3.5 star rating.
A pretty decent read until the end - give it a go if you want a foray into the arctic and the world of the deaf.