The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison (3 out of 5)
I indeed could not put it down. I did, however, pick it up to throw it at a wall upon the ending. Like Gillian Flynn’s stunning psychological tour de force Gone Girl, this one had me until the end. The ending of Gone Girl still makes me go rambling off at the store whenever a customer engages me in conversation about it. I expect with the book clubs doing this one in the vicinity of the store, that if anyone engages me in conversation about this, it will elicit a reaction similar to the one about that novel. It is a quick read that will not let you set it down for an extended period of time, but I guarantee if you’re anything like me, you’ll be jumping up and screaming loudly at the end. I believe the words “What the fuck? Not again!” were what I uttered.
This is an unbelievably well written book, no question. Jodi Brett (which was odd enough, as my sister grew up friends with a Jodi Bretz when we were kids) is a stunning character. A strong woman who greatly relies on her silence as stealth, she’s been married for many years to Todd Gilbert, a self-absorbed entrepeneur. Theirs is a marriage of mutual respect, quiet solitude instead of fiery passion, and an appreciation for the finer things. One of the finer things that Todd doesn’t appreciate is what the institution of marriage usually stands for. He’s been cheating on Jodi for some time with Natasha, a curvaceous 19-year old daughter of one of his oldest friends (to garner any healthy disgust for Todd, all one needs to do is read his flashbacks about watching Natasha grow up from a little girl to the young woman he’s bedding). For some reason, Woody “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” Allen kept popping into my head. Todd is a snake. I tried to find some sort of sympathy for him, for there are moments where Harrison pens him with a slight conscience in his feelings of guilt over hurting Jodi, but ultimately, no drop of it was found in this reader’s literary well. Todd keeps thinking that he can have the cake and eat it too, until Natasha stone cold busts him with the news that she’s pregnant. From this point, the author could have taken the usual ‘easy way out’ path. She did not. And that is one of the things I did love about this book- Harrison did not take any tried and true paths of distraction. Todd continues on with his marriage and his affair. Natasha tells him he’s leaving Jodi, they are engaged, and are going to live together and get married. Todd goes along with this, but continues to go home to the palatial sky palace he and Jodi live in. Natasha’s father calls Jodi and informs her of the affair and impending child. She continues to silently mourn the loss of her marriage, but she continues on in the marriage regardless. She doesn’t go lunar until Todd comes clean with her and then she loses her shit and tells him he must leave. End of story? No, the hayride has just begun.
Jodi continues living in the apartment, while Todd begins his new life while dragging out wedding talk as well as talk of a divorce. He consults an attorney who tells him to evict Jodi. She’s irate, and slowly begins plotting her next move. Except it takes the turn of a chessboard made of cheese, and the holes begin to appear. Her friends and their shady connections get involved, especially when it comes out that Jodi and Todd never officially married, so she has no claim to anything of his. He goes on and plays the doting father to be, but he’s already sick of commitment to the pregnant girlfriend. He goes out drinking at the bar, and goes to pick up yet another girl. As I said, snake oil salesman. Or just a Michael Vick-sized bottle of snake oil. Things get twisted, things get weird, and Jodi gets out of town. The next thing you know, she’s getting a phone call that Todd has been killed. What happened? Did Natasha “Lolita” finally snap over his indiscretions? Did Jodi arrange to have him offed? Did Natasha’s irate father? One of Todd’s spurned mistresses? The foreman of Todd’s latest project which is amounting to a sinkhole? Jodi’s therapist? The list of suspects is endless, but the finger of point is firmly on Jodi, due to other developments in the novel (no spoilers. You have to read it, kids). From there and until the big reveal, you’re constantly thrown one thing after another, which makes it anything but boring, but there are some loose ends that aren’t tied up, and worse yet, some strange shit that happens that is never quite explained and doesn’t tie into the story.
Another thing that is supposed to add to the fabric of the story is Jodi’s therapist appointments, which explain her childhood sibling abandonment issues, which may contribute to her adult attitude toward her philandering beast of a husband, but it never really shows anything about why she reacts in the way that she does toward Todd’s death. Something does not add up here. The therapist sessions, I think, were supposed to shed some light on her inclination toward retreat, rather than confrontation, in situations where her husband is not only lying to her, but also indifferent to the point of alienation through much of the marriage. Emotional abuse can do damage also, that’s the lesson here, but Jodi never quite learns her lesson. That’s a missed opportunity with this book.
Overall? I liked it. A lot. Until 55 pages before the end, when the cheeseboard turned moldy. Then I started going “What?” every other sentence as the character lost a little bit more of her moxie and turned into a sniveling, crying bag of wuss. I will recommend it, but I’d be interested in whether anyone else feels the way I did upon completing it. There were at least three different endings that the author didn’t take that would have enriched my love of the rest of the book. We’ll never really know, as Harrison herself passed away from cancer shortly before the book’s release. It’s definitely good for a book club pick, though, because I can see all sorts of arguments erupting over this one. It was good, but it felt like a missed opportunity.