Monday, 5 August 2013

Book Review: The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife
Author: A.S.A. Harrison
Published: June 25, 2013 by Penguin Canada


A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage, a way of life, and how far one woman will go to keep what is rightfully hers

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.


Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

ALSO- SPOILERS BELOW!!!!! Continue at your own risk!

First thing first- can everyone in the publishing/book reviewing world all agree to stop it- JUST STOP IT- with the Gone Girl comparisons?! Please?! Husband, wife, unlikeable characters, a little bit of sociopathology, marriage falling apart, infidelity, murder as a tool, chapters written from his and her perspectives. Fine, this book has those things in common with Gone Girl, but that is exactly where the similarities end. Period. 

Now that I've let that off my chest...

This book was voyeuristically addictive. I couldn't stop reading. I couldn't get enough. I felt a little dirty reading it- like I was given a private open window peek into this marriage and I couldn't look away. I was the nosy neighbour. [Shudder!]

Our introduction into the mind of Jodi:
"Daily routine is the great balm that keeps her spirits up and holds her life together, warding off the existential fright that can take you by ambush any time you're dithering or at a loss, remind you of the magnitude of the voice you are sitting on... She likes things orderly and predictable and feels secure when her time is mapped out well in advance..."
As opposed to Todd:
"His mind is on everything at once, encircling the whole of his world at a sweep... It's come to a point where he savours the constant apprehension, the risk he takes with each small decision, the strain of being overextended, the pressure of betting everything on the current venture. The anxiety he feels is stabilizing in a way, letting him know that he's alive and on track. It's anxiety cut with anticipation, an  interest in what comes next, a stake in things unfolding. this is what propel him through his day."
You can see how this was a marriage made in heaven, no? Jodi's educational background and need to control everyone and everything in her life really seem to work for her. But she's crazy. Like no-give-on-the-reigns, silk-thread-holding-it-together crazy. Todd and his midlife crisis are causing problems for him, his marriage, and his life. He's crazy too. My-wife-understands-I-have-manly-needs, I-can-have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too crazy. 

As a reader, I knew I was hooked from the opening:
"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... is approaching a final stage of disintegration, that her notions of who she is and how she ought to conduct herself are far less stable than she supposes..."
It is really well-written. The fact that it is written in 3rd person but still manages to capture 2 completely different voices (Jodi: logical, theoretical, academic reasoning; and Todd: male libido, Freudian ego, impulsive, materialism) is a feat!

There were some loose threads that I would have liked cleared up or left out of the story altogether (regarding Jodi's past), but they weren't distracting enough to change my reading experience, so I will leave it as a throw-away comment and move on...

As I mentioned, all of the characters in this novel are deplorable. It is actually hard to find a single redeeming quality in ANY of them. (I would love to hear if any of you disagree on that.) Somehow, though, I still cared enough about what was happening to and among all of them to keep reading. I think that speaks more to the quality of writing than anything I could possibly try to explain in a review.

Go pick up a copy and enjoy. Sadly, there will be no future books from this author as she died while this novel was being published.

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