I decided to take a small break from reading young adult novels because I was sorely disappointed by the last two I’ve read. I needed to clean out the negative energy, so I decided to read a few adult fiction novels. I’ve read Gone Girl, so naturally, I was curious when I read that The Silent Wife was similar. Personally, I thought the only similarity between the two was that it was about the unraveling of a marriage. The Silent Wife was a slow burn, where Gone Girl was a race to get to the end.
The Silent Wife is a novel that focuses on Jodi and Todd Gilbert’s marriage. Their marriage survives on the very shaky grounds of avoiding the problem of Todd’s adultery. Jodi has rationalized his cheating as something that is unavoidable–it is in his character and thus cannot be expunged. She is content with knowing that she is the one he shares a home with; she’s the one who runs his household.
… the pretense, the all-important pretense must be maintained, the illusion that everything is fine and nothing is the matter. As long as the facts are not openly declared, as long as he talks to her in euphemisms and circumlocutions, as long as things are functioning smoothly and a surface calm prevails, they can go on living their lives, it being a well known fact that a life well lived amounts to a series of compromises based on the acceptance of those around you with their individual needs and idiosyncrasies, which can’t always be tailored to one’s liking or constrained to fit conservative social norms.
Of course, that is all to change. We know this from the beginning; both the summary of the novel and the first chapter for Jodi touches on the fact that she is a murderer. Rather than spoiling the novel, the appeal of reading The Silent Wife is to find out how it happens. You want to see why she is driven to murder her husband. If he has been consistently unfaithful throughout their marriage, what pushes her over the edge to commit this crime?
Jodi’s chapters focus on showing us who she is as a character and how her marriage to Todd came about. I thoroughly enjoyed watching how she changes throughout the novel. She is very analytical and likes everything in its place. The writing in the chapter mirrors this. It’s very straightforward like she is, and only expands when necessary. She values the stability she has as Mrs. Gilbert and doesn’t want to go back to being Jodi Brett. Being Mrs. Gilbert allows her to be picky when she chooses her clients for her work as a psychotherapist. She has a very extensive screening process that allows her to help people that she deems as damaged, but not too damaged. Jodi doesn’t strike me as someone comfortable in her job–she wants to help people, but she’s too afraid of going out on a limb to help people with more serious issues. Her job seems more like a hobby, and she is a glorified listener.
In contrast, the chapters for Todd show that he is very comfortable with his job. He worries about spending just the right amount on construction projects to have a profit when they turn it around. He has a head for information and relies on his own power. Todd is a self-made man who believes that he deserves to relax after what he’s done–which includes anything from women to alcohol. Things are supposed to be under his control, which is one of the reasons he was depressed. Todd has momentum in his life, and when that was lost, he didn’t have a drive to continue.
The Silent Wife continues to switch between these perspectives as the marriage and the lives they have constructed within it steadily unravel and gradually speed out of control. The problems that they don’t confront start pushing deeper rifts into their marriage. It comes to a point where they no longer can ignore it, and that is where the control is lost. Jodi is reminiscent of Lady Macbeth. At first, she is able to rationalize things and is composed. Later she becomes more emotional and questions if she can continue on the path she’s on. For me, this made her character more fascinating to follow. I dreaded when I had to switch to Todd’s chapters. They’re necessary, but the entire time I was reading them I was disgusted. Instead of taking responsibility for his own actions, Todd always looked outside of himself for people to solve his problems. He never took responsibility, and ultimately, that was one of the reasons why he wasn’t a very redeemable character. The A.S.A. Harrison did too good of a job making us dislike him, because I didn’t really feel bad when he died.
Unfortunately for The Silent Wife, once Todd is dead the drive of the story peters out. The ending is ambiguous and left me questioning both Todd and Jodi’s role in the events leading up to the murder. Granted, most people don’t murder their spouses when one has cheated, but the ending was a great way to show how messy true life is. It’s hard to reconcile who you were before a relationship and how you change within one.