Monday, August 19, 2013

The Silent Wife

A.S.A. Harrison
The Silent Wife

Penguin Books, 2013

The novel is set in Detroit, Michigan. In alternating chapters, from the point of view of the wife and the husband, the novel tells the story of a failing marriage that lasted 20 years. Jodi Brett is a psychotherapist, 45 years old, young-looking, quiet, silent, in fact, as says the novel's title. From the first pages we are already told that in a few months this fragile woman becomes a killer of her husband.

Jodi likes to be the mistress of the house, keeper of the hearth. She cooks dinner for her husband when he comes home from work, she knows his habits. Jodi is responsible for the food, her husband, Todd Gilbert, - for the preparation of cocktails. They take turns walking a dog by the name of Freud, a frequent subject of jokes. Todd is the earner in the family: he is a professional renovator of buildings, he has his own stable business. He rose from the bottom performing once all repairs by hand. After the first successful project Todd was able to go up the ladder and became his own boss.
Jody practices at home, while her husband at work, Todd brings a stable money into the house, the couple live in a spacious condo, they are financially fine. But the thing is that Todd regularly cheats on his wife (started to cheat almost immediately after they got together), and she turns a blind eye to it. She already knows how to find the signs by which one can determine whether a husband had been with someone or not. Jodi never reproached her husband, never tried to reason with him or stop him sleeping around. She learned to tolerate these betrayals, not pay them much attention, while her husband comes home to her. They are comfortable together, they form a family, but for 20 years they had no children. The state of things in the family is broken when Todd makes his 21-year-old lover Natasha pregnant.

The Silent Wife is called by the publisher a psychological thriller. Such a definition is only half true. The novel lacks any elements thriller should have: yes, there is a violent death, but not all the books, where someone is killed, can be called a thriller. The killer and the victim are called at the beginning, and there won’t be surprises about that (although this does not mean that the book really has no twists). There won’t be surprises, but the essence is not in them. The Silent Wife is an anatomy of a marriage, study of the relationship between the two people forming a single family. Why did not marriage work and why did it last for 20 years - these are the main questions the novel asks. What are the elements of a character the couple should have similar, and what should be different for a man and a woman to be able to hold for each other for two decades? Reading the novel, you notice that the marriage is not about love, the word "love" is almost not mentioned here. And you can notice on the example of Todd and Natasha that, maybe, if there is love, the marriage will not work. Anyway, man and woman have different concepts of love.

If the word "thriller" is confusing, "psychological" played out in two ways. The novel offers a look at the characters from different angles, so we can try to understand the motives of Jodi and Todd.

In this story, there are no positive and negative characters. It will not work - to blame Todd or hate Jodi for her act. Both he and she are not the most positive people. They're hard to love: the victim will be a predator, betrayer – a victim. The author focuses more on Jodi, but in the second half of the novel we learn more about Todd and more understand his inner self.

But "psychological" speaks not only about the psychological side of the book, but also about the profession of the heroine. The novel will show plenty of discussion about the theories of Freud, Jung and their followers. Jodi, as a psychologist, will analyze herself. Hence the second layer of the novel, on top of domestic one.

The Silent Wife reads quickly, but does not give quick answers. Silence is gold, but it can be Midas’ gold.

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