Penguin Books; 6/25/2013
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
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. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl and These Things Hidden, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.
The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison is a character study of the disintegrating marriage of Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert. We know right from the start that Jodi is going to kill someone.
"At forty-five, Jodi still sees herself as a young woman. She does not have her eye on the future but lives very much in the moment, keeping her focus on the everyday. She assumes, without having thought about it, that things will go on indefinitely in their imperfect yet entirely acceptable way. In other words, she is deeply unaware that her life is now peaking, that her youthful resilience—which her twenty-year marriage to Todd Gilbert has been slowly eroding—is approaching a final stage of disintegration, that her notions about who she is and how she ought to conduct herself are far less stable than she supposes, given that a few short months are all it will take to make a killer out of her." (Location 23-27)
Jodi and Todd have been in a relationship for 20 years. Although they are not married they have lived like a married couple for all that time and most people assume they are married. Jodi, a psychotherapist, keeps an impeccable house and cooks gourmet meals for Todd. While she does see people in her practice at home, she limits her patients to just those who pass her screening process. Todd is a developer/entrepreneur who is also a habitual cheater. While Jodi, who is in denial, overlooks his cheating as long as he comes home, she does have her own ways of reminding him that she has his best interests at heart while at the same time getting back at him for his many blatant indiscretions.
Jodi tells the reader that: Other people are not here to fulfill our needs or meet our expectations, nor will they always treat us well. Failure to accept this will generate feelings of anger and resentment. Peace of mind comes with taking people as they are and emphasizing the positive. Location 250-251
Jodi and Todd's world is abruptly rocked when his latest fling, Natasha, the 21 year old daughter of his best friend, says she is pregnant. She demands Todd leave Jodi and marry her. When Todd discusses the legal ramifications of his choices, his lawyer lectures him:
“Here you are with a gorgeous home, a beautiful wife who loves you, and all the recreation on the side that a man could possibly want. Not to mention a life mercifully free of the kind of financial drain imposed by bloodsucking ex-wives who hate your guts. And now you want to throw it all away and join the ranks of pussy-addled middle-aged men like me whose brains are in their pants. I’m disappointed in you, Todd. I thought you had more sense.” He shakes his head sadly. His watery blue eyes wander around the restaurant. “How old is she?” he asks.
“How old is Jodi?”
“How old is the home wrecker. And please don’t tell me you’re planning to marry her.”
“Stop it, Harry,” says Todd. “You haven’t even met her.”
“I don’t need to meet her. Whoever she is, she’s not worth it. And if she’s younger than you, she’ll make your life hell.” (Location 1570-1576)
Told in alternating chapters/voices between Jodi and Todd, this is the story of a relationship that is falling apart. As Natasha's demands increase and we see the alternating reactions of both Todd and Jodi, clearly their perceptions of what they want may have always been an illusion. Their relationship seemingly has been simmering in a stew of infidelity, denial, lies, and self-serving behavior for years.
Jodi is so far into denial that I wanted to shake her and tell her that she does not have to accept Todd's philandering. She does not have to compromise her life as a sacrifice to him.
Todd is an egocentric self-centered jerk who can only think with his lower "brain". He is an archetype for all sorts of middle-aged men who suddenly think they need something younger to feel like a man again - until they realize exactly what they are being lead around by and start realizing that they miss what they had. Todd wanted Natasha for the thrill of the affair, but he's also, in many ways, too meek to stand up to Natasha.
I love Gone Girl and The Silent Wife, but a comparison between the two should have never been made. There are only two points of comparison: they both feature toxic relationships that are in crisis and the quality of writing in both is excellent. Gone Girl was a psychological long-con thriller. This one is much gentler character study of a relationship gone bad.
Very Highly Recommended - I stayed up way-too-late in order to finish it (and I was yelling at these characters the whole time).
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Penguin Books via Netgalley for review purposes.