One day, a couple of weeks ago, I was on Twitter bemoaning the fact that so few novels clue you into their big mystery at the beginning of the book. There is usually a long, slow process where little is revealed, but much is hinted at, until the story comes to a close. It’s tried and true storytelling, for sure, but it can also get a little stale in even the best hands. Where are the novels that drop the bomb on you right from the beginning? Tayari Jones did it with Silver Sparrow, but I am hard pressed to think of many recent novels where this happens. Well, A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife is one such novel. Right away you know that a killing occurs, who the victim is, and who done it – so to speak. Jodi is the killer and Todd is the victim.
Todd Gilbert and Jodi Brett have been together for twenty years and live a life of affluence in Chicago, Illinois. He has found great success in real estate development, and she keeps house as well as maintains a part-time psychotherapy practice from their luxury condo overlooking the lake. It quickly becomes apparent that the state of their marriage is not a healthy one, and is predicated on maintaining a heavy lie between them. Todd is a habitual cheater, and aside from occasional and petty acts of revenge, Jodi perpetually turns a blind eye and concentrates on making a good home for the two of them. For Todd’s part, though he strays constantly, he always knows that his place is with Jodi. He’s happy to return to her – until one day he isn’t, and doesn’t. That’s when it gets crazy, you guys!
The Silent Wife alternates between Jodi and Todd’s perspectives in an eerily omniscient type narrative that’s mostly in the present tense. This, along with the countdown like nature of the novel, makes it a particularly stressful read. Though you know what’s coming, the revelations of Jodi and Todd’s backgrounds, how they have shaped who they are, and how it has played into the dynamics of their relationship inform all the factors contributing to their final circumstances. Quite frankly neither Todd nor Jodi are characters you want to spend much time with. Jodi is cold and schedules time with friends as activities to fill a to-do list, and Todd seems incapable of thinking of anyone else’s needs but his own. Both are extremely entitled and self-absorbed, but they aren’t boring – which is far, far worse in fiction than not being a good person.
Harrison fills The Silent Wife with heavy psychological examinations of each of Todd and Jodi’s past and juxtaposes it with their present actions. Sometimes I was reading between my hands as each party’s behavior escalated. Boy, was this an uncomfortable read in places! There is a lot to think about in terms of what, if anything, would have changed the outcome for these characters -what the final straw was, and what could have led them back to a relationship which had fulfilled their acknowledged needs for many years. Readers who enjoy tension filled forays into toxic minds and marriages will enjoy dissecting this relationship, either alone or with the friends they urge to read it. Recommended.