The Silent Wife – A.S.A. Harrison

Monogamy wasn’t designed for men. Or men weren’t designed for monogamy. – A.S.A. Harrison, The Silent Wife

  • Silent Wife copy1Title: The Silent Wife
  • Author: A.S.A. Harrison
  • ISBN: 0143123238  (ISBN13: 9780143123231)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: June 25th 2013 by Penguin Books
  • Format: Trade Paperback/Audiobook
  • Genre/s: Literary Fiction
  • Source: Purchased/Library
  • Rating: A

The Silent Wife is a magnificent novel, a psychological thriller of the highest caliber with the emphasis on psychological. As you follow the characters to a conclusion that is an inevitable and ephemeral as day following the dark of night the reader cannot avoid becoming completely immersed in the lives of these flawlessly created yet deeply damaged characters.

Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event.

Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.

Almost immediately after commencing The Silent Wife I too felt that I would have been compelled to kill Todd, what with his casual disregard of his wife. Although his friend Dean and Natasha, the other woman in this tale, may not have been safe from the carnage either. Or perhaps I am just a bloodthirsty reader?

Murder is barely a word in her vocabulary, a concept without meaning, the subject of stories in the news having to do with people she doesn’t know and will never meet.

Like Jodi’s assertion at the beginning of The Silent Wife, the idea of murder is a very abstract distant concept, however as the story progresses the reader slowly becomes aware that this perfect seeming companion is sulfurically angry and the idea of snuffing out the source of the problem becomes more and more plausible.

Her friends of course know her as Jodi Brett, but to most people she is Mrs. Gilbert. She likes the name and title; they give her a pedigree of sorts and act as an all-around shorthand, eliminating the need to correct people or make explanations, dispensing with awkward terminology like life partner or significant other.

What I found most compelling was the thought of what would bring a person to kill their spouse? Why not just get a divorce? Or in this case simply leave, as Jodi and Todd live in a state that does not recognize common law unions, but that would negate the story now wouldn’t it?

There are lots of reasons why a woman stays with a man, even when she’s given up on changing him and can predict with certainty the shape that the rest of her life with him is going to take.

Haven’t we all fantasized about a scenario like this? I have pondered murder, truly I would challenge anyone who says that they haven’t. This being said I hope nothing ever happens to my husband, as statements like that usually come back to haunt people in the movies.

It simply doesn’t matter that time and time again he gives the game away, because he knows and she knows that he is a cheater, and he knows that she knows, but the point is that the pretense, the all-important pretense must be maintained, the illusion that everything is fine and nothing is the matter.

Jodi is a psychotherapist, which brings to mind the question of how she could dismiss the significance of Todd’s infidelity and her blase seeming reaction to it. Both Todd and Jodi are so adept at repressing real emotion that I found it darkly humorous that Todd’s reaction, almost his first thought, after realizing that he will have to tell Jodi the consequences of his affair with Natasha is “where will he be eating dinner?”

Simultaneously obscene and off-putting was Todd’s relationship with Natasha, his life long friend Dean’s daughter, his reminiscences of her childhood and his recognition of her as a possible sexual partner just barely skirted pedophilia. Almost childlike in his expectation that the world would continue to unfold in the manner to which it always had I found myself flabbergasted at his naivety.

What does he mean he has no choice? It’s just like Todd to dramatize his circumstances, relinquishing responsibility, pretend that it’s not him running his life but a force beyond his control – a way he has of excusing his bad behavior.

Todd’s blindness to the danger awaiting him keenly reminded me of Phil Hartman’s demise. I remember being shocked when news reports stated that he had informed his wife that he was leaving and then went to sleep. Honestly, who does that!

The Silent Wife is an amazing combination of elements of Sense and Sensibility and Fatal Attraction. His internal rationalizations of his discontinuation of financial responsibility for Jodi brought to mind Fanny’s machinations of John Dashwood convincing him that leaving his half sisters in near poverty was actually quite generous. Ultimately Todd’s cowardice makes him a character that the reader can hardly wait to reach his final reward.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Homicide Survey.

Of all intimate partner homicides in 2011, 36% were common-law, 36% were married and 26% were other intimate partners.Note8Despite an increase in 2011, the number of homicides of legally married spouses (including separated and divorced) has been declining since the early 1980s. The number of homicides of common-law partners has been relatively stable over the past 30 years, while the number of other intimate relationship homicides has doubled since 2003

A+S+A+HarrisonA.S.A (Susan) Harrison’s previous books include Orgasms (Coach House Press, 1974), Revelations, with Margaret Dragu (Nightwood Editions, 1987), and Zodicat Speaks (Viking Penguin, 1996). The Silent Wife is her debut novel and she was at work on a new psychological thriller when she died in 2013, aged 65. Harrison was married to the visual artist John Massey and lived in Toronto.

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