The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife 
by A.S.A Harrison
ISBN: 9780143123231 Paperback
Penguin Books
June 2013
Barnes and Noble - IndieBound - Powell's

Boy, it's been quite a long time since I've read a contemporary novel for adults. For fiction, I mostly read classics (for my classics project) or books for children and young adults (for my job). And outside of that my reading mostly consists of non-fiction. Needless to say, it felt really really good to pick up a contemporary novel and just lose myself in it.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison follows the relationship between couple Jodi and Todd which, after 20 or so years, is quickly beginning to unravel. Because of Jodi’s hesitance, they have never married nor have they any children. Both are in their mid-to-late 40s and Todd is in the throws of a mid-life crisis. He has taken up a torrid sexual affair with Natasha, the college age daughter of his best friend Dean. The affair is successfully kept secret from both Jodi and Dean until Natasha becomes pregnant and insists that Todd leave Jodi and marry her. While it takes some prodding from Natasha, Todd is happy to embark on this new journey in life. He’s finally going to get married and be a father, two life events that Jodi has denied him during the twenty years they were together. But Todd’s new life isn’t perfect and his abandonment and betrayal is destroying Jodi.

Its not a spoiler to say that Jodi will end Todd’s life because that’s made clear at the very beginning of the book. The plot basically follows the events that lead up to his inevitable demise and what happens immediately after. I glanced at some negative reviews and found that most were disappointed because the book wasn’t a psychological thriller, that the comparison to Gone Girl others have made was inaccurate and that the plot was very slow. After reading those reviews, I’m glad that I didn’t expect a rip-roaring thriller and found that I enjoyed the book immensely and not having certain expectations helped I’m sure.

When I intially read the book description, I saw this more as a book about an unraveling relationship more than a psychological thriller. And that’s what it was. However, that’s not to say there aren’t some psychologically thrilling moments. The climax of the book was so disturbing to me that I had to put the book aside and relay my thoughts to happier things so I wouldn’t be too emotionally unsettled to continue. And yes I am a sensitive reader, more so than most, but it doesn’t discredit the power of the climax which I thought was particularly well done. The pace of the book worked for me. Jodi moves slowly and methodically and Todd’s life moves like he had just pressed the fast forward button. The 28 chapters in Part 1 go back and forth between Jodi (Her) and Todd (Him) until it reaches Part 2 where it is all about Jodi and the aftermath of Todd’s death. I’m a big fan of alternating chapters, especially when what they’re alternating between opposites (present/past, him/her, good/evil, etc.) or two different perspectives (Jodi/Todd). The alternating chapters worked particularly well in this book.

The book, while very enjoyable, wasn’t without its flaws. I didn’t feel much of anything for Jodi but then again I’m not really sure we are supposed to. Jodi is a psychologist and is calm, reserved and methodical. I found it hard to connect with her but also felt remorse for her situation. I didn’t have much in common with Todd either but I felt he was a much more interesting character than Jodi. Their relationship and the events that unfolded were fascinating to watch. I didn’t quite get why the author focused so much on Jodi’s relationships with other men (her two brothers and psychologist Gerard). Jodi’s conversations with Gerard about her brothers are given plenty of attention but I couldn’t quite connect that to Jodi’s relationship with Todd. Maybe someone else could appreciate this where as I didn’t.

If you are looking for a exciting psychological thriller, look elsewhere. If you want a thoughtful read that really explores the nuances of human relationships, then this book is for you. Unfortunately, the author A.S.A. Harrison passed away before the book’s publication. Its too bad that she couldn’t enjoy her book’s release to the world or follow it up with more insightful fiction.

Note: When I first came across this book, I noted some similarities with the Jodi Arias case. Both women are named Jodi, both had unraveling relationships and both killed their romantic partner. Other than those similarities, the two stories, the fictional one and the real life one, couldn’t be more different!

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