What I Couldn't Tell You by Faye Bird


Thank you to Faye Bird and Faye Rogers for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


This book starts off with a terrible tragedy where 18-year-old Laura is attacked and left fighting for her life in a coma. We then follow her sister Tessie, who is grappling with the ramifications of Laura’s attack. It would be hard enough for any younger sibling to cope with a sister in the hospital while their family struggles to understand who and why someone would attack Laura. But Tessie has selective mutism. This story follows Tessie’s journey as she begins to piece together the events that put her sister in the hospital.


For me, the real story was the fantastic character of Tessie. She is inspirational and the way she manages to overcome the struggles she faces was fascinating to read. I hadn’t heard of selective mutism before so it was absorbing to see what life is like. The writing was so descriptive I found I could feel Tessie filled to bursting with everything that she wanted to say, everything that she was feeling, but she just wasn’t able to. I could feel the frustration and the pain because she couldn’t say what she needed to when she wanted to.


The way in which the other characters in the book interacted with Tessie was thought-provoking. It was hard to see that some people took advantage of her, using her as a sounding board and secret keeper because they know that she doesn’t talk unless she is safe at home. The harrowing scenes of bullying were vividly written. They were the epitome of people being nasty to anyone ‘different’. It really hit home how cruel children can be.


Because Tessie can’t talk, her feelings are mostly internal and inside her head, we could see that even though she was struggling with Selective Mutism, she was a nice, normal and lovely girl. She had the same needs and desires even though she wasn’t able to live that way. It actually came across that she was a lot more mature than girls her age because she had to deal with complicated issues as a result of her Mutism. As she listens and doesn’t talk, it can be considered that she knows more about the world than most.


The situation of Tessie and Billie was very clever. They both have had difficult upbringings, just in different ways, but it was how they chose to act and the person they wanted to become in spite of those upbringings that was really interesting. That is what I took away from this book, but there are so many different themes running through it. I could analyze it over and over.


This is a really well written and gripping read that isn’t just a ‘who dunnit?’ Faye Bird explores family dynamics and gives a realistic insight into Selective Mutism.



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