Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodie is living in denial. But she also likes to settle scores. When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows everything is at stake. It’s only now she will discover just how much she’s truly capable of…
The Silent Wife has been blazing a trail of buzz and word-of-mouth across the internet and best-selling lists for most of the year. With the paperback version released later this month, I decided it was high time to see what all the praise was about. Honestly, all the praise was really well-deserved, even if I had some issues with the main characters. Harrison managed to pull off a huge twist, that I really hadn’t seen coming and do it in a way that it didn’t feel like a cheap way out of a dark hole.
The main characters, Todd and Jodie, are both the strength and the weakness of the book. Harrison manages to portray them clearly and makes their flaws sharply-defined. So sharply, it often becomes hard to truly connect to them emotionally. They are both rather unsympathetic. Todd because he’s a cheat and takes what he has with Jodie for granted and lets himself be railroaded by his lover into leaving her. Jodie because she seems to take the easy road through life; she accepts Todd’s cheating as long as he doesn’t rub her nose in it; she chooses to accept only those patients that don’t require too much emotional energy; and whenever something bad happens, she just pretends it isn’t there. Jodie and Todd’s relationship is in some ways a throwback to the really traditional fifties-housewife. When Todd comes home, she has dinner waiting for him, drinks are had just so, she makes his life run smoothly and luxuriously and in return, he makes sure she has everything she wants. While these are valid life choices, they are rather far from anything I know and the helplessness by which Jodie is struck down, when she’s left on her own, left me more frustrated than sympathetic. In addition, I really didn’t like Natasha, Todd’s much younger lover. I thought she was an airhead and I never really got the sense she truly loved Todd. Then again, we only get to see her through Todd’s eyes, so this sense might be skewed by his perspective.
The story isn’t so much a murder mystery as it is a portrait of the slow unravelling of a life and someone’s balance, if not sanity. By first building up the life Jodie and Todd created together and then showing the cracks and finally the implosion of this life, she creates a sense of sympathy for Jodie, which I hadn’t expected since as a reader I didn’t really like her. I loved how Harrison made the minutiae of especially Jodie’s life important. That it was the loss of these daily, pedestrian experiences that hit the hardest. And that is these small, simple things that Todd misses most about his old life. There’s also the sense that at several points this story could have taken an entirely different direction, if only one of the lead players had made a different decision or had a different reaction. It creates an atmosphere of inexorable fatedness, of an inescapable ending, just until Harrison pulls the rug out from under you and ends the story on such a magnificent twist that it will leave the reader blinking for a bit after finishing the book.
The ending was superb and it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt this to the big screen, as news recently broke that the book is to be made into a film starring Nicole Kidman, who in hindsight (I’d finished the book before the announcement) is perfect for the role of Jodie. Even if reading The Silent Wife was at times an uncomfortable experience, I truly enjoyed the time I spent with this story. It’s just sad that we’ll never see what else this talented author could have given us, as she unexpectedly passed away just before the publication of The Silent Wife. If you enjoy a less action-driven, more slow-burning psychological thriller, then The Silent Wife is the one book you need to read this year.
This book was provided for review by the publisher.