Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Review: "The Silent Wife" by A.S.A. Harrison

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.

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