When Ann Packer released her first book, The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, it was one of my favorite books of the year. It was a book that really brought out my emotions. I cried and cringed with the character in the book. And I’ve been hoping for years Packer would write more great books. It finally happened in September 2007 with the release of Songs Without Words, a book about a family whose teenage daughter attempts suicide. The book is told in vignettes from each family member’s perspective, including the mother’s best friend, Sarabeth, whose mother committed suicide just before the two friends entered high school.
Seeing the situation from each perspective was interesting and showed just how deeply a suicide attempt can affect every person involved, not just the person who tried to take his or her own life.
I enjoyed the book, although it started off quite slow in the beginning. As I got through the book though, I realized the slowness in the beginning was necessary because it allowed us to like and connect with each of the characters before we saw them fall apart. However, even knowing the background of her character, I found Sarabeth to be unsupportive and whiny through most of the book. I really was quite irritated by how selfish she was throughout the book and I was surprised that she and Liz, her best friend, were so easily torn apart when the suicide attempt happened. I would have almost rather have had her out of the story completely than to have her extra story line be part of the book. After awhile I just wanted to skip over her vignettes.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was that it’s set in Northern California, where Packer lives. It has also been my home for nearly 15 years, so the book was able to really come alive for me as I saw the characters driving down familiar freeways and eating at familiar restaurants. It also helped me to feel a little less homesick, which was nice.
All in all, this is a book worth reading, but I have to say I was a little disappointed after waiting five years in such anticipation for another Packer book.