All marriages involve compromise, to some degree. All honeymoons eventually end, and virtually every couple is forced to consider our beloved’s flaws and vices and ask ourselves, “What am I willing to put up with?” For most of us, these annoying quirks and habits are little more than irritants – dirty socks left lying in the midst of the bathroom floor, toast crumbs in the butter, or maybe a tendency to hog the covers on cold winter nights.
For most of us, chronic infidelity is the ultimate deal-breaker, one of those non-negotiable lines we refuse to step over. Under no circumstances can we imagine letting our spouse step out on us and simply standing by in mute acceptance. This isn’t the 19th century, after all. Why would anyone tolerate such treatment in this day and age?
In A.S.A. Harrison’s gripping debut novel, she explores how a solid marriage can slowly but surely erode over time, when selfishness and complacency become a way of life that can only be ended by a truly shocking act of violence.
Jodi and Todd have been married for years, and theirs is a life of comfort and complacency. Over the years, the passion and spark have long since died out between them – Todd’s taste for extramarital affairs with all manner of women has taken its toll on the marriage – but on the surface, both seem more or less happy with their arrangement.
The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy affords both Jodi and Todd a great deal of freedom, and while Todd pursues younger and younger women, Jodi’s happy to lunch with friends, dedicate herself to her career as a therapist, and spend quiet evenings preparing extravagant dinners for her often-absent husband.
The façade of a happy marriage begins to crumble when Todd takes up with a much younger woman, the seductive daughter of Todd’s oldest childhood friend. Almost against his will, Todd’s relationship with the lovely but fiery young Natasha seems to take on a life of its own. Without knowing quite how it happened, Todd finds himself a father-to-be with a willful girlfriend who has none of Jodi’s calm complacence.
As Todd gives in to Natasha’s demands that he move out, start divorce proceedings against Jodi and plan for their impending wedding and child, Jodi does her best to pretend that none of this is happening. When Todd’s lawyer sends an eviction notice, Jodi simply ignores it. Todd is no better – when he and Jodi meet, he’s the picture of a contrite husband, longing for the life he once had. But once he returns to Natasha, he’s ready to turn his back on Jodi without a second glance.
Jodi’s steely calm begins to erode in the face of Todd’s betrayal, and she slips deeper into a downward spiral of depression, barricading herself in her home like an ostrich with its head stuck stubbornly in the sand. She can see no way out of her predicament…until a “helpful” friend suggests a solution which is both horrifyingly final and guaranteed to end the cold war raging between her and Todd.
This book was absolutely gripping. Told from both Jodi and Todd’s perspective, it paints a vivid picture of a marriage imploding from within, with both participants seemingly incapable of stopping their slide towards the precipice of mutual destruction.
It’s tragic that author A.S.A. Harrison didn’t get to appreciate the fruits of her success. She died of cancer in April of this year, just as The Silent Wife was beginning to rack up rave reviews and critical acclaim. It seems certain this talented author would have enjoyed a long and successful career had her life not been so tragically cut short, based on this very enjoyable first novel.
This book will pull you in and keep you flipping pages, even as you rave against the silent wife’s complicity in her own misery and her husband’s spectacular selfishness. A good read, even if the spare, pared-down prose makes for the occasional slow patch.