THE SILENT WIFE by A.S.A. Harrison

August 20, 2013

Jodi and Todd bask in creature comforts galore: a condo with stunning waterfront views, a Porsche (his) and an Audi coupe (hers), an indulgent lifestyle afforded by his real-estate development business. Jodi sees just two clients a day in her psychotherapy practice, leaving plenty of time for Pilates, flower-arrangement classes and preparing the gourmet meals they both enjoy. Their obligatory golden retriever is named Freud. Their days and nights lack spice, but 20 years after meeting in a car collision, they’re still together, if not officially married.

But the gloss on their existence is cracking. Todd is a serial cheater, and Jodi knows it. He’s aware that she knows, even as his latest fling turns from casual to life-changing. By the second paragraph of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife,” readers learn that Jodi will become a killer; her trip to the tipping point makes each subsequent page a waiting game.

Told in alternating “Him” and “Her” chapters, the back stories of Todd and Jodi reveal their discontents and quirks. He keeps a stash of marijuana in his desk and justifies his affairs, even one with his best friend’s daughter. She ponders the lives of her absent brothers — one troubled, the other successful — and skates past thoughts of Todd’s philandering, grateful that he hasn’t strayed with any of her friends. Neither character is likable, although Jodi’s passive denial inspires a mix of sympathy and impatience. Just leave him!

She won’t, of course, but Jodi does take a wicked step, serving Todd a mug of sedative-laced Ovaltine after finding a prescription vial labeled with a woman’s name in his khakis. “Eleven pills . . . round blue tablets like buttons on a baby’s smock. . . . If he ingested the pills they would disappear, and in the process, the score between them would be settled.” But the outcome is only a severe hangover for Todd, and a flicker of regret and relief for Jodi. That dissolves quickly as her world implodes: Todd moves out, and Jodi discovers the financial nightmare of being a woman scorned.

Jodi’s choices and Todd’s realizations play out at a measured gait toward the promised homicide. The only discordant note is struck by flashbacks to Jodi’s long-ago conversations with her therapist. Formatted like dialogue in a two-person play, these hint at secrets but hamper the present-day narrative.


“The Silent Wife” by A. S. A. Harrison (Penguin)

Harrison was noted for her nonfiction, but as this first novel demonstrates, she also had a flair for make-believe, with clever twists and elegant writing. Her death in April at the age of 65 makes the book a bittersweet pleasure to the reader, who knows it won’t be followed by another tour of ordinary lives fraught with doubts and deception.

Blumenstock is a Washington writer.

THE SILENT WIFE

By A.S.A. Harrison

Penguin. 326 pp. Paperback, $16

SECTION: {section=entertainment, subsection=books}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=entertainment, subsection=books}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments