Open "The Silent Wife," by A. S. A. Harrison, and meet Jodi and Todd. They live in a gorgeous Chicago condo. She's a part-time psychologist working from home; he's a renovation expert and developer who makes enough money to provide them with an enviable and affluent lifestyle. They've not married, but have been living together for twenty years; their life has become an ongoing stable and emotionally satisfying routine of mutually met obligations and expectations. They have no children, so they each have sufficient time to indulge in whatever interests them. Jodi loves to play the perfect domestic diva taking care of Todd and Todd loves to be taken care of. Jodi loves doing her spa visits and Pilates sessions; Todd loves having sex with other women...and being confident that his accepting wife will ignore and forgive these dalliances. This is their routine. They seem ideally suited to it, and to each other...their lives in perfect balance. To readers, their relationship might seem unusual, and neither of them might be the type of people we'd like to have as friends. In fact, I am sure that many who read this novel will take an instant dislike to these two fictional antiheros. But of course, readers are not required to like these characters. Rather, what readers need to be able to do is to figure out how to understand them. Why? Because that's a good part of the pleasure of this novel.
In the beginning, we are told that this novel is all about a murder. Jodi will be the murderer and Todd the victim...and it will take only "a few short months" to "make a killer out of her."
So you might ask: with a novel that starts like that, how could it possibly be marketed as a thriller? Where's the suspense?
In fact, there's plenty of delight and surprise in this captivating cerebral psychological thriller. It's a thriller because we readers must ultimately understand and figure out the complex psychological unfolding of "the how" and "the why." And if you can see and understand the emotional dynamics of what is happening, you'll find a great deal of humor (oh yes, very black and subtle) all along the way. This is an intricate and impressive dance of inner survival where both characters keep stumbling no matter how hard they try to make the right move.
The book covers the few short months while this relationship is coming apart. In detail, we learn of the events that propel these two toward their fates. The story is told in alternating chapters from Jodi's and Todd's points of view. As readers, we exist in these character's minds. We are privy to their inner motivations, rationalizations, distortions, and self-delusions. But with two separate and very differing viewpoints, readers are left to figure out what really is going on. That's what's fun. That's part of the thrill.
The author expects her readers to have a high social IQ and a fair amount of arm-chair academic psychological knowledge...and what she figures readers may not know, she explains--of course not directly, but the psychological facts are there, hidden in the fabric of the storytelling. Perhaps you'll recognize these "lessons" when you see them, or perhaps you'll just pick them up subconsciously along the way. In either case, you should eventually start to understand how these characters are fated--by their pasts, and by their own specific and differing temperaments and character flaws--to affect what happens in their lives.
This is a very clever book--intelligent, compelling, and exceedingly well written. If my review has piqued your interest, you are probably one of those readers who will find this book as remarkable as I did. For me it was clearly five stars.
I was never a fan of 'Gone Girl', and am glad I did not know that this novel, 'The Silent Wife' was being compared to 'Gone Girl'. This is an entirely separate novel, connected only by the season, a summer novel/thriller.
This novel was exquisite, it pulled me in entirely. It is a novel that can be read easily in one or two days. In fact, it is a novel that calls you. A relationship of twenty years, never a marriage, because neither felt it was necessary. Jodi Brett, a psychologist, with several degrees behind her name and Todd Gilbert, a developer, builder, with no degrees behind his name, met by accident. Jodi was moving and her moving truck struck Todd's truck in a blinding Chicago rain. Somehow in-between the yelling and accusations a relationship developed, and within a short time they moved in together. They had a perfect life, thought Jodi. A lovely apartment, expensive furnishings, good food, fast cars and good sex. The only issue was the never discussed liaisons that Todd had with other women. Jodi, ignored them, never addressed them, and lived in a perpetual state of denial.
This denial seemed to be a state for both of them. Each of them had a difficult, abusive childhood. OnlyTodd spoke of his. Jodi kept her issues covered, deep denial, that seems strange for a therapist. They lived an altered life,an altered existence. Todd got what he wanted, whenever he wanted, and, Jodi, got what she wanted, she thought. Jodi dressed in expensive beige pants and white shirt while at home,and this seems to be her existence, beige. Just right, no highs, no lows, until something occurs that brings everything crashing.
Couples who talk above the fray, but never really discussing their feelings. Too afraid to show what is really going on? On the surface, the perfect couple, below the surface, what has this alliance wrought? Love is apparent, but where is the love, really?
The author, I have read, died before her novel was published. Her first novel, exquisite writing. I could see and feel the characters, their surroundings, their emotions right there, but not shared with each other. This is the novel I would recommend, surprising in some sense, but so right, to the core!
Recommended. prisrob 07-08-13
on August 2, 2013
I'd rate this book 3.5 stars.
Let's get this out of the way first. Despite what the marketing of this book may say, The Silent Wife is not "this year's Gone Girl." And truth is, that's both good and bad. I wasn't as much a fan of Gillian Flynn's best-seller last year, so I can't say I wasn't entirely disappointed that this novel didn't share many of the same characteristics. However, I wish that The Silent Wife had a little more of Gone Girl's page-turning suspense.
Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have been together for more than 20 years. Their relationship began in an auspicious way--the two were both involved in a car accident--but the two have supported each other greatly. Jodi has watched as Todd has become a self-made man, starting from restoring and rebuilding a Chicago townhouse from the ground up, to running his own construction business. And Todd encouraged Jodi's studies in psychotherapy and her counseling business, listening to stories about her clients (with all pertinent details hidden, of course).
Todd has ensured the couple never wants for any creature comforts--they live in a beautiful waterfront condo high up on the Chicago skyline, take fun and relaxing vacations, and enjoy fancy dinners and entertainment. And Jodi is the perfect wife--nurturing, supportive, always there with the perfect dinner and their well-behaved dog.
Sure, their marriage isn't perfect. Whose is? Jodi has turned a blind eye through the years to Todd's extramarital dalliances, because at the end of the night, Todd always comes home to her. And while Todd may seek the comfort of other women from time to time (professionals and others), Jodi is his one true constant and he can't imagine actually leaving the life they've made together.
But things have hit a rough patch. When Todd tells Jodi he is leaving her for a younger woman, she can't quite believe he'd be willing to jeopardize the comforting, stable stasis of their marriage. Although Todd feels fulfilled by his new love, and the prospect of a new life, he can't quite shake the thought of being away from Jodi forever, either. However, when Todd's new girlfriend makes it clear he needs to end things with Jodi, he does, although Jodi isn't all that interested in tolerating this.
For their entire relationship, Jodi has been the quintessential silent wife. But she's not willing to turn a blind eye any longer and let Todd destroy the life she has come to depend upon. Shifting between Jodi and Todd's perspectives from chapter to chapter, The Silent Wife is the story of two reasonably intelligent people who find themselves in unfamiliar territory, which causes them to make some reasonably dumb mistakes. While early on in the book you're told what happens, the way the story unfolds is interesting and even somewhat surprising.
I thought the The Silent Wife was an interesting and somewhat compelling read. Jodi and Todd are complex, flawed characters, neither of whom generates a great deal of empathy in the reader, although they're not the odious characters in Gone Girl. This is a story we've seen again and again in books, movies, and television, although A.S.A. Harrison has put some intriguing spins on the story.
All that being said, however, this book felt a little too clinical and distant, and the resolution of the story didn't engage me as much as I would have hoped. While it certainly was interesting to see how the story was going to unfold, just when I expected things to hit a different level of passion and suspense, it didn't. Perhaps that was reflective of the stable life that Todd and Jodi had built for themselves, but it left me a little cold, which was disappointing, because these were two tremendously interesting (if not entirely sympathetic) characters.
on August 3, 2013
First of all, it irritates me that this book is being marketed as "the next 'Gone Girl'"; after completing "The Silent Wife", I can tell you that it is nothing like "Gone Girl", so why compare the two in the first place? This book centers around a dissolving marriage (which is probably the only similarity it shares with "Gone Girl") and is told in alternating voices, from the husband and wife.
The Good: The book really fleshed out each of the two main characters. I feel like I can understand and empathize with their actions and ultimately feel sorry for each of them at the novel's end. Their alternating views of their marriage provide a realistic and three dimensional perspective on the troubling effects infidelity can cause. In all, the novel was thought provoking.
The Bad: This book had lots of incidents of plot lines introduced that were either never tied up or were not needed entirely. For example, the wife spends chapters and chapters talking about her estranged brother, but no resolution for their detachment is ever revealed. In the husband's storyline, he becomes worried that he could have contracted HIV, yet this health scare is never explained, nor does it do anything to propel the story.
The Ugly: Most frustrating is the fact that this book is being marketed as "the next 'Gone Girl'". I believe this is insulting to A. S. A. Harrison, because it forces readers to begin "The Silent Wife" with preset expectations that are just not going to be met. I feel like I would have enjoyed the book a lot better if I had not heard or read any of the reviews for it, which definitely clouded my thoughts while reading.
All in all, "The Silent Wife" does a fantastic job of painting two very different people and the rise and fall of the life they built together. However, the story's abundance of loose ends and lack of drive keep it from entering the realm of "great books".
on August 1, 2013
This is a tough book for me to review. When I downloaded the sample to my kindle, I was immediately hooked. I loved the author's writing style, the premise of the book was intriguing, the character of Jodi seemed very interesting, and I liked the Chicago setting (I'm from the Midwest).
The first 1/2 of the book is very good. It reminded me of "Gone Girl", in the sense that I wanted to keep reading and couldn't put it down. It was fascinating to look into this bizarre relationship between Jodi and Todd and to watch it start to unravel. These are two very psychologically messed up individuals with an equally messed up relationship.
As I kept reading, I was waiting for something dramatic to happen, a surprising twist, a shocking revelation...something! Instead, I felt like the book just sort of chugged along and ended in a rather ho-hum manner. It wasn't a horrible ending or anything, it was just kind of boring and lacked the excitement I had hoped it would have. Also, while the characters of Todd and Jodi are complex and well written, all the supporting characters in the novel are very one dimensional and uninteresting.
Overall, it's a fairly interesting read, but I am downgrading the stars because I felt like it had a lot of potential to be great and in the end, it was just okay. I really hate it when books start off strong and then putter out by the end. I feel like, if anything, a book should be slow to begin and then pick up steam, not the other way around.
on September 15, 2013
I succumbed to the reviews and hype that if I liked 'Gone Girl', I would LOVE this book. I may never give credibility to reviews again. First, the book is written in a tedious style of unending descriptive prose to set the background and to tell the tale. I slogged through the first chapters thinking (hoping) the author would abandon this wordy approach. Sadly, this did not happen. Second, I found the main characters unlikable and then loathsome. Sorry, folks, this one wasn't one I'd recommend and Amazon.......it will be a very long time before I trust your 'personal recommendations for my reading pleasure'!
on October 22, 2013
My husband and I like to listen to audio books while taking long drives. I bought this based on the reviews by the high review of several critics. My due diligence is pretty good about when a book is good or not worth buying. This story when on forever and we both keep asking when it thing going to end as it was painful to complete. I would not recommend this book and I mostly hope it is never made into a movie as it would be a waste of effort.
The reason I enjoyed this book so much was because I could totally relate to the main character Jodi. She's non-confrontational, takes comfort in the simplicity of daily routine, and is determined to live an uncomplicated, comfortable lifestyle with her husband. Todd, on the other hand, takes for granted the serene world Jodi has created for him. When his extramarital affair leaves him no choice to abandon his ideal life with Jodi, something breaks in her. Todd's selfishness and his desire to want the best of both worlds backfires on him when Jodi seeks the ultimate revenge.
The book is narrated in alternating chapters, "Her" and "Him." In Todd's chapters, he does nothing but make excuses for himself in an attempt to justify his destructive actions. The most interesting aspect of Jodi's narrative is her psychotherapy background. Her knowledge of human behavior gives her an amount of patience, even denial that can often make her seem aloof. Jodi's staunch complacency made me admire her, but also doubt her. She's an incredibly complex character trying to navigate the world that she created and Todd has shattered. The revelations Jodi comes to in her self-assessment are alarming. She retreats to a dark place within herself as the conclusion unfolds. The end is intense and thought-provoking and I appreciated the undefined outcome that the author presented.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.
on July 4, 2013
I absolutely love this book. It is not only a terrific story of a woman's interior life and personal development but it is a very realistic picture of a real "marriage" and how people rationalize and defend the choices they make. At the same time, the author gives hints to an impending sense of doom and suspense that comes together at the end in a surprising and very satisfying way.
It is beautifully and intelligently written and in a strange way offered me insights into things I have struggled with in my life.
I am intentionally not telling anything about the plot line because I knew very little about the book other than it was recommended by a source I trust (NYT BOOK reviews? NPR?) and Amazon's comparison mentioned Gone Girl. For me, this was far far better than Gone Girl, which I also enjoyed.
on October 14, 2013
Jodi and Todd's marriage falls apart due to infidelity. It isn't the subdued and understated manner in which Jodi proceeds that bothers me (some of her hands are quite well played), it's that nothing really brings her to life as a character in this novel. The same can be said for Todd, Natasha, Dean, and all the friends and characters met in between. There is nothing resonating or memorable about any of them. They fail to leap to that three dimensional place in your mind and instead feel like an old black and white film. If that's the intent, then the author's goal was well achieved... it's just not my personal taste.
I found myself skipping quickly through pages just to get through the book and truly regret having spent $7.99 on the kindle edition when there were more worthwhile things I could have purchased. Having lived in Chicago for years, it's nice to hear some of the street names, restaurants, etc. mentioned... that was one of the reasons I purchased the book, but even that, like the rest of the novel, was underdeveloped lacking descriptors, imagery, and anything that sets a true background and tone for a novel. Every book should have a purpose, whether it's a beach read, psychological thriller, business book, etc. I can't think of a slot this one would fill that would compel me to recommend it to anyone. It's truly unremarkable.