VIRTUAL SILENCE by Joan Schweighardt


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 A tale of random violence and its aftereffects narrated by a 17-year-old honor student who speaks in such bloated and unlikely prose it makes you wonder whether Schweighardt (Homebodies, 1994, etc.) has listened to any teenagers latelyor if she's ever read The Catcher in the Rye. Ginny Jarrell is in a New Jersey diner with three friends when a gunman walks in and opens fire. In the aftermath, one of Ginny's friends and two other innocent bystanders are dead, along with the gunman, who has shot himself. The teenagers who witnessed this carnage have various traumatic reactions. One starts to drink; another abandons her old friends and switches to private school. Ginny's own response, never fully explained, is, first, to take a temporary vow of silence that entails weeks of using hand signals and writing notes to communicate; and, second, acquire a guna process that involves blackmailing a classmate who lives in a slum and therefore seems likely to have the necessary low-life connections. Meanwhile, there's trouble on the homefront, too, as Mom, recently separated from Dad, consoles herself by drinking too much zinfandel with best friend Ida. And Dad, in his bachelor apartment, appears to be entertaining a new girlfriend, a woman so alarmingly tall that Ginny privately refers to her as ``Goliath.'' Everything comes to a head on an island vacation when Ginny is stranded with two bickering adult couples (shades of Schweighardt's first novel), the gun goes off, and Ginny recovers her voicecomplete with overblown diction. It's apparent that Schweighardt knows the dramatic elements of a good, action-driven story, but such a story works only if the characters convince you. And, sadly, this bunchbeginning with Ginnynever does. Silence may well be golden, but it can't offset a narrative that's leaden.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-877946-61-3
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Permanent Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1995


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