The Price of Silence
by Camilla Trinchieri
Review by Ernest Lilley
Soho Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569474976
Date: 01 June 2008 List Price $13.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
[Note: This review originally ran in our August 2007 issue.}
The Price of Silence is a beautifully crafted story about a family damaged by the death of an infant and the equally broken girl who enters their lives. Richly written with complex and believable human drama and tragedy it's a compelling story that twists towards its ending without giving up the killer to the bitter end.
The story begins with in the courtroom where Emma, a middle aged teacher of English as a second language, is standing trial for the the murder of a young Chinese girl, An-Ling. Emma is a woman who had been emotionally dead since the death of her two year old daughter, which she'd caused when she swerved to avoid a dog in the road, hitting the child instead. Though her marriage endured, and she wound up having a son a few years later, a pall of silence hung over the family, a silence so deep that Emma believes they've kept the secret of Amy's life and death from Josh.
Something about An-Ling stirs maternal chords inside Emma and her heart immediately goes out to her. What An-Ling is or isn't is anybody's guess, as her story shifts with the weather. What's obvious is that she is deeply troubled, talented, and as emotionally starved and isolated as Emma. Tom, Emma's husband, doesn't want any part of this Chinese interloper in his family, which he's held together by force of will and the resolve to keep the past buried. Josh, just entering his teenage years finds that his passion for the mute language of drumming is nothing compared to the one's An-Ling awakens in him.
While the three of them wheel around each other like a Calder mobile with An-Ling at the center, none of them dare break the vow of silence between them. No matter what the price. Just like the real Manhattan, The Price of Silence is full of self absorbed emotional cripples, brunches, trysts, rendezvous, and secrets. It's a pity that this crowd is too intellectual to hang out at Gray's Papaya for hot dogs, but I suppose that's realistic, considering the cultures that come together here, middle class academics and a collection of various generations of Chinese immigrant artists.
The narrative moves along through the court proceedings, but meets them out sparsely, more as introductions to internal retrospective dialogs from each of the characters, except the dead girl...though she gets to say her piece in interspersed emails...some sent after her death by a time delaying server. Though I often find the rotating character voice annoying, here it works perfectly, due in part I think, to the courtroom framework acting to set up the next character's piece. I don't recall any other story that has quite this dialog between present and past, but it works very well here and seems to be a natural for courtroom proceedings.
The Price of Silence is a fairly quick read, all the more so because it's hard to stop once you've started, and a really well crafted piece of human drama on a stage which mixes disparate cultures witch turn out to be more alike than not. Highly recommended.