52 in 52: The Silent Wife, by A. S. A. Harrison

[This review is based on the NOOK Book digital edition published by Penguin Books in 2013.]

Here’s the deal:
Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert are a “married” couple (theirs is a common-law marriage), living together in Chicago for the last two decades. Todd works as a contractor and jack-of-all-trades; he purchases properties, completely renovates them, and flips them. Jodi runs a part-time psychology practice out of her living room, essentially as a hobby. Their life together seems perfect until it’s revealed that Todd is essentially a serial cheater and that Jodi, while unhappy with being subjected to this, is at the very least complicit (hence The Silent Wife). It’s not until Jodi discovers that Todd has impregnated his friend’s daughter Natasha that things take a sharp turn into darkness. Todd is faced with the decision of whether to leave Jodi for Natasha and his unborn child, while Jodi is left picking up the pieces on her own. The chapters are written in the third-person narrative, in turn from each of their perspectives; as the story unravels, we learn whether Jodi decides to suffer in silence or to stand up for herself, and whether Jodi and Todd’s relationship — and their heartbeats — make it to the end of the novel.

My thoughts:
The Silent Wife appeared on my radar with the recommendation of my best friend Becca, and she asked me to text her with my first impression of the book after I’d gotten through the early chapters. Obliging her, this is the verbatim, and rather blunt, message I sent:

“First thoughts on The Silent Wife: Jodi is an enabling moron and Todd is a pig.”

I could think of no better way to put it, and I felt that neither Jodi nor Todd deserved to be treated with kid gloves. You’ll love, then hate, then love to hate and hate to love both of them as the novel goes on. I literally finished the last page of this book, set down my NOOK, and called out, “Sheesh!” It’s a painful portrait of a struggling relationship that nearly anyone could identify with (though few would actually take matters as far as they go in the book). Because of the third-person narrative, the exposition comes across almost as a couples-therapy case study, which I loved (especially given Jodi’s background in psychology). The narrative discusses Todd’s Oedipus complex and Jodi’s dark past, explaining his promiscuity and her disinterest in marriage and having children. The secrets that are revealed are astounding, shocking, disturbing…choose your adjective!

Whether Jodi and Todd deserve what’s coming their way is left to the reader to decide. For me personally, neither of them deserved their fates — she deserved worse than she got, while he deserved better — but both of them deserved at least some measure of happiness, whether together or with other people. I found myself wishing that they could have reverted back to their early years, before Todd’s cheating barged into their relationship. They seemed much happier and more comfortable then, as many couples do; it’s unfortunate that most relationships don’t maintain that level of comfort and happiness. I will say that I came away from The Silent Wife with a fresh appreciation for my own marriage: The Hubby and I are the Cleavers, the Bradys, the Huxtables, even the Griffins compared with Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert!

So would I recommend this book?
This is one of those books that I would tell everyone I know to read. Unless your relationship is abusive or adulterous, you’ll come away feeling like your significant other is the perfect partner compared with the main characters in the book. A. S. A. Harrison’s storytelling is fantastic, the plot is dark and twisted, and the novel will keep you tied down to your chair or beach towel from start to finish. The Silent Wife is a must-read!

Unfortunately, Ms. Harrison died of cancer in April 2013. To learn more about her and her other work, click here.