Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writing Silence

by Shirley Drew

“He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds.”

I recently finished reading A. S. A. Harrison’s psychological thriller, The Silent Wife. In two sittings. I could’ve read it in one sitting, but, as always, life intervened. This is now on my list of great summer reads.

Here’s the description from Goodreads:

“Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event.” 

Yes, it looks as if there’s a spoiler right up front. But this is not what the book is really about. It’s about a 20 year marriage in which the conversations rarely go beyond the surface of their everyday lives. Above all, they avoid talking about the state of their relationship. More specifically, his cheating. She knows he cheats--and he knows that she knows. Etc.

So how does the author portray the silence between these two people? She does it by breaking one of the cardinal rules for writing fiction: “Show, don’t tell.” The book has very little dialogue—it is primarily a narrative, told from alternating views of the husband and wife. Normally, books with so little dialogue bore me. But Harrison makes it work. She does this by fully developing her characters through their points of view and by moving back and forth in time to the beginning and development of their relationship. She takes the reader back to their individual childhoods and to the events that shaped who they eventually become. She uses silence between the characters to portray silence.

They both know that breaking the silence about his cheating and her implicit knowledge of it would completely alter their lives. And neither is willing to do that until something happens that forces them to speak openly about it. What follows is best explained by a quote from the novel:

“Life has a way of taking its toll on the person you thought you were.” 

What are your favorite summer reads? 


RichardK said...

Note to self ... don't let wife read this story. Hide all knives.

Shirley Drew said...


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great book! I have so many books piling up that I need to read. My book club doesn't meet in the summer, but we picked The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt to read anyway that we'll discuss in September.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Just added that one to my To Be Read list. And you're right, that's another example of why breaking the "rules" is sometimes necessary.

Shirley Drew said...

Thanks for your comments!

Sarah Sullivan said...

Now The Silent Wife is on my list of summer reads as well! It's hard to keep up with the Young Adult literature being made into movies these days, but I like to read those books before they hit theaters, partly because I have young adults in my home and partly because I am fascinated with this burgeoning genre. Nice to have a title just for me! Thank you.

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