The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski © 2012 Harper Collins
Young Bonaventure Arrow can’t speak. No one knows why God gave him this condition. By the end of this old Southern bayou story, I didn’t know why the author gave him this condition. Bonaventure also has extraordinary hearing, which isn’t really hearing, but shining more or less. For example, he hears colors and events witnessed by inanimate objects. This condition ultimately no more furthered the story than his muteness, even when Bonaventure spent the whole novel hearing the earthbound spirit of his late father.
Bonaventure’s father was murdered in a seemingly random act by a demented, nameless drifter. The mystery of who is this drifter and if he really had a motive was interesting until Leganski revealed a heretofore unknown character three-fourths of the way into the novel. The drifter’s identity and motivation then became obvious long before it was finally revealed.
Silence still had some good elements. The story was primarily about Bonaventure’s mother and grandmother coming to grips with the death of their husband/son, and that much was engaging. It was Leganski’s attempt to tie their comings to grips to Bonaventure and a hoodoo (not voodoo) practicing bayou woman that fell short. Bonaventure’s wicked maternal grandmother and her comeuppance by way of his muteness was a funny aside, but nothing more than that.
The story also suffered from long family histories for every character. I suppose this was meant to convey Southern-ness and might have if it was done in something other than narrative. I’m not saying Silence was bad, but it wasn’t golden, and I have high standards. The minuses outweighed the pluses, so Silence is going in the bin.