The Silent Wife
by A. S. A. Harrison
Published by Penguin Books
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
5 / 5
I read once, perhaps in a college psychology class, that marriages go through seven-year cycles. Hence the seven year itch. Supposedly, every seven years, couples face their biggest struggles. It has something to do with boredom and complacency.
Jodi and Todd have been together for twenty years, and like most couples with long marriages, they have a reasonable idea of what to expect from each other. Todd knows that Jodi will keep a nice home for him, make sure his laundry is done, and prepare him delicious meals. Jodi knows Todd will cheat on her, but always return to her.
If only it were that simple, kids.
As they approach a multiple of seven, their relationship hits its roughest patch. Jodi accepts Todd's dalliances and even justifies them somewhat. So long as he does not embarrass her or their marriage, he can cheat. Todd tacitly agrees and tends to abide by this. Sure, there have been slip ups, but for the most part, he's behaved accordingly. But he has a new girlfriend. Young, a bit more demanding of his time, and far more willing to give him something Jodi refuses to do. The price of that gift, though, is the bulls eye on the dartboard of his marriage.
The problem for Todd is that Jodi doesn't want to give in or give up. She likes what she has.
This book has been compared to Gone Girl in its exploration of a marriage that has disintegrated into bitterness on both sides. It's an unfair comparison, I think, because The Silent Wife is not similar to its genre companion. Yes, it's told from both points-of-view, and, yes, Jodi's willingness to play for keeps is quite ... um ... intense. She means to keep Todd at all costs. This differs greatly from Gone Girl, in which the happy couple will resort to any measures necessary to stay apart.
A. S. A. Harrison crafts a delicious tale, Her ability to switch from Todd's to Jodi's perspective is one thing, but the way she capably shifts in tone and mood between the two is impressive. Both characters are fully developed and not at all predictable. Todd, for all of his apparent mold-ability, surprises us more than once. Despite the philandering, he seems to be more of a victim than Jodi, who clearly holds the greater power in their relationship. Again, Todd deceptively appears to do so, but it's all Jodi.
That Todd cedes power over his life to the women in it also surprises us. He doesn't appear to mind in the least; in fact, on the few occasions he could determine his own fate, someone else jumps in and does it for him before he even realizes what's happened. That's perhaps what bothers Jodi more than Todd's cheating: she no longer controls him. Yes, he cheats, but he did so within parameters that Jodi established. When he breaks from their arrangement, Jodi is outraged. The cheating she can live with; his abandonment of their carefully choreographed dance she cannot.
There are a few holes here and there, and the ending feels a bit too tidy. (That was the "BOOYAH!" card with Gone Girl - the ending. Oh, that ending.) But this is a terrific story, told in a way that will keep you turning pages in shock, anger, curiosity, and concern.