Today 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.
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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”?
I 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.