I got The Silent Wife for Christmas, having put it on my Amazon wish list after seeing a great review of it on Slate. I had heard it compared to Gone Girl in the “unputdownable-ness” category, and while I would agree that they were similarly hard to put down, I think it was for pretty different reasons.
Jodi and Todd are a middle-aged couple who have been together for decades. She knows he cheats, and he knows she knows, but they don’t talk about it and he has never found a reason to leave—until now. Now, with nothing left to lose, Jodi becomes someone she never thought she would be: a killer.
For what it’s worth, before anyone goes on about spoilers, it says in the blurb on the back of the book that she is “the killer” and he is “the victim.” I thought it was an interesting way to summarize the book—basically giving away the ending—but, naturally, there are plenty of twists and turns leading up to the big finish, so it really doesn’t spoil anything at all.
Giving away that major plot point was actually a really good strategy. It helped create the slow burn that really defines the whole book: you know what’s coming, but you don’t know when, where, or how; you wonder when she’s going to get the idea; you wonder what makes her think she’ll get away with it; you’ll even wonder occasionally if she’ll really go through with it.
The Silent Wife was also a very insightful look into a relationship, giving (almost) equal narration to both Todd and Jodi. Jodi in particular is fascinating in her denial that Todd is really leaving, sustaining her belief that he’ll come home despite so many indications to the contrary. Despite her profession as a psychologist, she is blind to her own naïveté, until the realization that he’s actually leaving finally crushes her.
To me, Jodi is truly a tragic character. After a tension-filled childhood due to her parents’ outright dislike of each other but refusal to divorce, she vows never to marry or have children, believing that this will save her from the pain her parents went through. Instead, because she never legalized her relationship with Todd, their breakup leaves her with nothing—her part-time psychology practice is too small to support her—but her desperation. By refusing to marry, she ends up in an even worse predicament than she could have imagined.
Though Todd is undeniably an asshole, he’s also tragic in his own way: specifically, in his utter lack of agency. Throughout the entire book, he’s swept along by this floozy who is demanding he leave his wife (for reasons I’ll let you find out for yourself) and he just…acquiesces. He laments his situation more and more as his new fiancé demands more and more from him—things Jodi never demanded. But he doesn’t leave, despite being less and less invested in his relationship with his fiancé. I kept waiting for him to see the light, but he just keeps rolling along as if he can’t do anything about his situation when he totally can. Maybe it wouldn’t be easy, but it’d be better than…well, you know what happens. You just don’t know where, or when…
My only regret is that we won’t be seeing more from A. S. A. Harrison; unfortunately, she passed away right before The Silent Wife, her debut novel, was published. I’m so sad that we won’t get to read more by her.
Anyway, The Silent Wife is a great book to pick up for a quick, intense read. I’ve recommended it to a few people already and they’ve loved it.by