Day 782: Literary Wives! The Silent Wife

Cover for The Silent WifeToday is another review for the Literary Wives blogging club in which we discuss the depiction of wives in modern fiction. Be sure to read the reviews and comments of the other wives! If you have read the book, please participate by leaving comments on any of our blogs.

Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J.
Lynn of Smoke and Mirrors
Naomi of Consumed By Ink

* * *

Although The Silent Wife is billed as a psychological thriller, if that is actually its intent instead of marketing hype, it fails. I see it as more of an in-depth exploration of a dysfunctional relationship and particularly of the character of one unusual woman.

Jodie’s husband Todd of 20 years has just been through a depression, but he seems to be improving. On the surface, their marriage is fine. She is a highly educated woman who enjoys making a perfect home and working part-time with her therapy clients. Todd’s remodeling business keeps him out of the house a lot, and he enjoys drinking after work with his buddies, but she doesn’t seem to mind this and is always glad to see him come home. Although he is a serial womanizer, she has long learned to live with this fact and ignores it.

This information is the first odd note in the novel, because we have learned that Jodie’s father was also a womanizer, and Jodie was a witness to the havoc it created. We wonder immediately how she can accept this situation in her own marriage.

What Jodie doesn’t know is that Todd has embarked on a more serious affair. He is sleeping with the 20-something daughter of his boyhood friend Dean. Although he doesn’t remember proposing to her, suddenly he has a fiancée and a baby on the way, and Natasha is pushing him to tell Jodie.

When Jodie learns about the affair, it is through the furious Dean. Todd hasn’t mentioned a thing, so she doesn’t take it seriously. Even when he tells her he’s moving out, on the morning of the event, she still thinks he’ll come back.

Although I didn’t find this novel to be a thriller, we know from the first sentences that a crime is involved, and the novel is an effective psychological portrait of a woman who can ignore anything she doesn’t want to see. Combined with a man who avoids anything confrontational, this is an explosive mixture. While Todd allows himself to be pushed into one untenable position after another, Jodie continues to disregard what is happening.

The novel is effective and it kept my interest, but it indulges a little too often and too long in its deep discussions of psychology. Perhaps this is supposed to be a reflection of how Jodie thinks, although it’s not always presented that way, but these passages could have been more succinct and effective. Added to that, the novel is only moderately well written. Still, the plot keeps you engaged.

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife? In what way does the woman define “wife”—or in what way is she defined by “wife”?

Literary Wives logoI think that this novel is too particular to this couple to make any broad statements about being a wife. But Jodie has definitely created her own image of her relationship to Todd. She has prided herself on making the perfect, calm, immaculate home, on providing beautifully cooked, delicious meals, on leading her own life and letting Todd lead his. But this life does not seem to consist of any sharing on an emotional level. In fact, it survives by keeping secrets.

Her reaction to Todd’s cheating seems inexplicable at first, considering her parents went through the same thing. Instead of it being a deal-breaker, she decides not to let it bother her. She puts it away from her. This is the character trait that I found fascinating. Her father’s unfaithfulness made her mother unhappy. So, she decides not to let it make her unhappy. She continues not to even acknowledge the truth of other things that might make her unhappy, and she pursues this course through one unpalatable event after another. But then, we find she has plenty of practice in hiding things from herself.

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15 thoughts on “Day 782: Literary Wives! The Silent Wife

  1. Naomi October 5, 2015 / 7:50 am

    The way Jodi thinks and lives is fascinating. I often wondered how a person could be happy living this way; both with a cheating husband, but also suppressing all of her negative emotions. It seems like the perfect recipe for disaster (which it kind of was).

    “…the novel is an effective psychological portrait of a woman who can ignore anything she doesn’t want to see. Combined with a man who avoids anything confrontational, this is an explosive mixture.” So true! I found Todd to be pretty much a jellyfish. Jodi always took good care of him, and when he found himself losing that, he started to fall apart.

    I liked this book, not as a thriller, but as an exploration of a dysfunctional marriage. And, really, this example of a marriage might not be as uncommon as we would like to think.

    • whatmeread October 5, 2015 / 7:56 am

      I think it’s very interesting that Jodie is a psychologist but she has refused therapy herself because of what she doesn’t want to recognize, because she wants to suppress things. I didn’t think the book was a thriller, either. And you’re right. I think lots of marriages get along by each ignoring things the other person does.

      • Naomi October 5, 2015 / 10:00 am

        Ha! I just said something similar in my response to your comment about Jodi being a psychologist.
        I just finished reading Fates and Furies, which is also about a marriage. It was interesting to compare the two. F and F is about a successful marriage, but really only made successful because of the secrets that were kept.

      • whatmeread October 5, 2015 / 10:09 am

        Oh, that might be a good one for next year’s Wives list. We have had a few discussions about changing the way we make our list. Instead of relying on books with Wife in the title being about wives, which they are not always, that we each make suggestions of books that are about a marriage, which would probably mean that one person would have to have read each one.

      • Naomi October 5, 2015 / 10:59 am

        Fates and Furies would be a great choice!

      • whatmeread October 5, 2015 / 11:03 am

        Make a note! I have it on my list to read it, although I didn’t get accepted by the publisher to get a free copy. I plan to buy one, though, because I love Beukes!

      • Naomi October 5, 2015 / 1:05 pm

        Noted!

      • The Paperback Princess October 5, 2015 / 10:56 am

        I have that sitting at home right now. I am trying to savour just having it but I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to hold off reading it!

      • Naomi October 5, 2015 / 11:00 am

        It’s good, and will also make for good discussion! I’m hoping the Socratic Salon will take it up.

  2. The Paperback Princess October 5, 2015 / 11:00 am

    Oh I really liked this book. It was a bit slow at some points but I was fascinated by how much care Jodi took with their life and how willing Todd was to throw it away. Until he saw what his life would be without her. As long as Todd is discreet, Jodi will carry on the charade. But when she’s challenged, forced to see what she doesn’t want to, she snaps. I agree with Naomi that there are probably many marriages that operate this way.

    • whatmeread October 5, 2015 / 11:06 am

      I liked it, but I thought it was unfortunate that it was marketed as a psychological thriller, because it wasn’t really a thriller. The thing about Todd was that he seemed as if he was so averse to pressure that he would do anything to avoid it. Since Jodie didn’t put any pressure on him, it was easier for him to do what Natasha told him to do. I thought it was telling that several times he never remembered promising things to Natasha. I wasn’t sure whether we were supposed to believe that he didn’t promise them, or that he just was so pliable that he would say anything to get rid of the pressure and then didn’t remember he’d said it.

  3. Emily J. October 5, 2015 / 12:21 pm

    You are spot on with this: “I think that this novel is too particular to this couple to make any broad statements about being a wife.” I struggled a lot with writing about this one. I read it quickly, but put off writing about it until late last night, and I think this is exactly why. It was hard to say how this fits into our exploration of literary wives, and they were certainly not a typical couple.

    • whatmeread October 5, 2015 / 12:27 pm

      Yes, they are very unusual. I think it is not unusual for people not to talk about things they should, and it is not unusual for some people, especially men, to try to avoid thing they think are going to be unpleasant. But both of these people are so extreme about it, and throwing them together creates an unusual situation.

  4. Lynn @ Smoke & Mirrors October 6, 2015 / 11:23 am

    I would totally agree with you that this was mis-marketed as a thriller. I didn’t see it in that way at all either. However, I did think it was a fascinating psychological analysis of two people who seem to be extreme in the reality they have each created for themselves. Interesting that she wasn’t really, legally a “wife”… Hey, we agreed on one, Kay! 🙂

    • whatmeread October 6, 2015 / 11:30 am

      Yes, I agree. I wonder if the problem was that it didn’t fit neatly into a genre?

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