The Silent Wife
By: A.S.A. Harrison
Format/Source: galley copy courtesy of Penguin Canada via NetGalley
Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.
There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this book, likening the book to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I haven’t read that book (will probably read it at some point) but I thought the premise of this novel was interesting enough so I requested for a galley copy. I was approved of one courtesy of the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Contains some spoilers ahead!
It was an eerie experience reading this novel, turning the page and watch as this marriage clinically break down from their respective perspectives (albeit the couple not fully realising it). There are faults on both sides, mainly a lack of communication, not voicing what the other felt about the state of their relationship. It’s strange how these two accomplished individuals who can deftly deal with others on a daily basis be unable to voice what they’re feeling to each other. Their perspectives are also fascinating to follow because their reflections about the early days of their relationships is riddled with biases because of what they’re feeling and going through in the present.
This sort of clinical feel of the novel is also reflected in the prose; it’s very drawn back, omniscient to their thoughts and feelings but also reserved, almost cold. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not but I guess it helps reflect the overall tone of the novel.
The characters involved were interesting, not meant to be likeable really, but they’re human and they’re reacting to their situation in their own way. Their respective psychologies were interesting, not only because Jodi deals with clients on a regular basis, but just in who Jodi and Todd are. It seems that much of who they are is rooted in what happened in their past, what their family dynamics and experiences were like.
I did however find myself disliking Todd a bit more though based on his poor decision-making; he seemed to dug himself deeper and deeper as he went along and then complaining when things aren’t going right. In a way he reminded me of Emma Bovary (review), jumping from one relationship or thing to another in the hopes of the new thing making him happier but then finding out that it didn’t. On the one hand, it’s pretty sad but at the same time he was too much of a coward to man up to his decisions. Perhaps he thought he could have it all, going back and forth the way he did, and that sort of dampened any sympathy towards him in the end.
At the same time, I’m not sure what I felt about Jodi at the end. She certainly is an example to the whole “Watch out for the quiet ones” sentiment because her anger and reaction to Todd’s adultery and divorce proceedings was very deadly and very eerie in contrast to her seemingly passive response & behaviour towards him throughout. I did feel sorry for her in that she was caught unawares with Todd’s extracurricular activities and about the younger woman whom he was planning a whole new life with but at the same time from her perspective it seemed like she was rather emotionally stunted. It’s hard to truly grapple my feelings about it because it was mentioned time and again how Jodi has this absolute command of herself, this certain sense of poise and togetherness, but when you learn more about her family life and the relationships she had with her siblings, it seems that that coupled with her profession makes her seems…emotionally void (for lack of a better word).
I did however find myself wondering about their assets. It seems that Todd was the breadwinner between the two; Jodi mentions that the money she earns would be enough to manage a reasonable household, which was surprising because I thought that she was earning enough to maintain the lifestyle she was used to. I may have just missed that detail or maybe the idea was that it took both of their large-earning paychecks to maintain that level of lifestyle (which in that case, wow).
Overall, The Silent Wife was interesting enough. It’s not so much a thriller but it is a psychological drama examining the dissolution of Jodi and Todd’s relationship. The ending could have been stronger (it left me in a sort of “That’s…it?” It was a good concluding note but the build-up could’ve been more…of a punch, I suppose) but fans of the sort of psychological dramas will want to check this novel out.