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[632] The Silent Wife – A.S.A. Harrison

wife

Read in Bangkok and Pattaya, reviewed in Pattaya, Thailand

” Put up a front, go through the motions, don’t say a word. Act as if all is well and all will be well. Jodi’s great gift is her silence . . . keep her own counsel, but silence is also her weapon. The woman who refuses to object, who doesn’t yell and scream—there’s strength in that, and power. The way she overrides sentiment, won’t enter into blaming or bickering, never gives him an opening, doesn’t allow him to turn it back on her. (Part I, 122)

The slow, murderous disintegration of a marriage is all too believable in The Silent Wife, a book set in Chicago that switches between Todd and Jodi’s perspectives. Jodi is a psychotherapist, who is “deeply unaware that her life is now peaking . . . that a few short months are all it will take to make a killer out of her.” (Part I, 4) Because her partner for twenty years (they never married), odd Gilbert, never a faithful man, has fallen for someone else, his best friend’s daughter half his age, and is leaving her. He is also completely unable to see the truth of things or to face up the reality of his situation—trying futilely to stay loyal to two women. He will not heedlessly walk away from the nest he built with Jodi and yet turns his back on her. She is also about appearances, happy to pretend she doesn’t know about Todd’s numerous infidelities while keeping a perfect home for him—until the news of Natasha Kovacs’s pregnancy “thrashed around inside her like a trapped bird, giving her a kind of psychic vertigo.” (Part I, 101)

She loved him like that for a long time, even after she knew him well. The renewal of her love she attributes to their separation. The shock of losing him has affected her deeply, reactivated her pulse, flushed out disused chambers of her heart. (Part I, 184)

The Silent Wife is a prickly story of a marriage gone awry. Reader is told from the start that Jodi will become a killer, but Harrison takes her time, building the small details and emotional nuances which make Jodi’s move to commit the unspeakable believable. The secret of the book’s spell lies not in ingenious twists but in its meticulous plausibility. Each alternating chapter escalates their character, presenting a long-term relationship that seems unimpeachable on the outside but is slowly rotting from within.

She finds now that she wants very much for him to have seen it coming. This is her wish. That he registered the truth, understood it as her doing, saw that he brought it on himself. (Part II, 317)

Jodi’s trip to the tripping point makes each subsequent page a waiting game. Her choices and Todd’s realizations play out a measured gait toward the promised homicide. She’s in denial but not really, it’s just she knows that to give his affairs credence would mean tearing down the facade of her perfectly constructed reality. The book is so well-paced but predictable. As it advances into treacherous territory, Harrison’s elegant, incisive prose gets darker, more dangerous, and dirtier, showing how things can slip so far without either party realizing—that even murder can slowly, insidiously, begin to seem the best, if not the only option.

372 pp. Headline UK. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

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2 Responses

  1. Jodi was a frightening character! Sure, Todd was a loser but she allowed so much to happen and was so secretive about it all and given her profession, I was more disturbed by her than him.

    I loved the plausibility factor that you mentioned. Such a shame that we cannot read more of her work.

  2. Our book club read this one, and while we universally HATED EVERY CHARACTER, we all found it to be a very easy book to read. I think I read it in two or three days, which is almost a record for me.

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