Yasmin arrives in Alaska with her daughter Ruby from England to reunite with husband and father Matt, a wild life photographer. Things have been a bit rocky between Yasmin and Matt, and there is some trepidation on Yasmin's part as to why she is doing this, but her gut instinct is telling her this is what she needs to do. That gut instinct is going to be working very hard over the next 300 pages, so it is reassuring that she trusts it so much! Ruby, like many little girls of ten, adores her father and has a wonderful relationship with him. Despite being deaf from birth, Ruby is highly intelligent, with a very enquiring mind, has no trouble communicating with her parents, is an expert with computer and social media technology, and in her silent world leads a very rich and imaginative life. She even has her own blog - Words Without Sounds - and when the novel starts she has 630 followers. In her blog she describes the world around her, but in her own unique and very beautiful way.
On their arrival at Fairbanks airport, they are told that the village Matt was staying in has been destroyed by a fire, killing all 23 Anaktue residents, plus Matt. His wedding ring is produced as proof of his demise. Yasmin does not believe he is dead, not for one single minute, and with Ruby in tow promptly sets about finding a way to get into the Alaskan interior to find him. Really I hear you say? How ridiculous with a ten year old, insufficient gear, clothing, survival skills etc. Disbelief suspended....
The extraordinary thing about this book is how Ruby depicts the physical world around her through the veil of silence. She sees what we see, but through a totally different lens. The natural beauty of Alaska, its wildlife and the night sky of which there is a great deal (!) are already stunning, and enhanced so much more by Ruby's observations and commentary.
This is a great novel, narrated alternately by Yasmin in the third person, and Ruby in the first person. This does not detract at all from the pace or the characters. The combination of Ruby's more passive and observation driven narrative with Yasmin's mum-in-charge-on-a-mission narrative, provides the perfect balance to make this so much more than thriller mystery.