Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Review: The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves

Some people like to talk. Others are naturally more reticent. Some people share everything. Others hold things much closer to their vest. We may think it's easy to determine the truth of things when people talk a lot, when they share what appears to be their every thought. They chatter away, the life of the party, the friendly, the engaging, the approachable and relatable. But for these garrulous folks, what's the content of their silences? We all have secrets, private things we don't share. It's just more obvious in the quiet people. And if a quiet person isn't sharing a lot normally, will those who know and love them even notice if they stop speaking altogether? And what will it take to bring their words back?

When the fire alarm goes off, Frank goes into the kitchen to find his dinner burnt and his wife of forty some years unconscious next to an empty pack of sleeping pills. Rushed to the hospital, Maggie is put into a medically induced coma and Frank is completely distraught. Urged by a kind nurse to talk to Maggie, to help pull her back to him, Frank is at a loss. He's never been much of a talker but he has said not one word at all to Maggie in the past six months. But he knows he must tell her what drove him to this guilty, immovable silence even if he fears his revelation will mean losing her one way or another. And so he tells her the story of their life together, meeting her, marrying her, the day to day of their marriage, the late, unexpected birth of their daughter, and his deep and abiding love for her through everything. As he talks, he recounts his own feelings of inadequacy as a partner and as a father. He regrets the unspoken and the misspoken, both in the past six months and in their long years together prior to that. He examines all the places he feels he went wrong and all the ways that Maggie did better than he did.

Frank's telling, labelled "Her Silence" is told in the first person. It is rusty and halting and full of recriminations against himself but also the undiminished wonder at his luck in being the person Maggie chose to love. When the story flips to Maggie's perspective, called "His Silence," it is through Frank's reading of her daily planner, in which she's journalled the final seven days of Frank's silence, her countdown to exactly six months of wordlessness, and the narration moves to third person. Despite the shift, both narratives are incredibly personal and open. Frank's view of their marriage, shown in his narration, is not exactly the same as Maggie's, and each of them has kept secrets from the other over the long course of their life together. And just like in a marriage, the two parts together form a whole for the reader. It is the picture of a loving marriage but one stressed by long unfulfilled hopes and dreams, the bewildering sorrow of raising a child who you desperately want to save, and the secrets kept out of fear or guilt or even kindness and protection. It is complicated and knotted and only by finding a voice, can anything heal the two of them, if Maggie wakes up.

The differing perspectives tell the reader how each of them viewed the other and those views don't always line up with how they saw themselves, showing the reader the depth of their love for each other and for daughter, Eleanor. Frank and Maggie might have faced many of the same things in their marriage but even when confronted with the same things, infertility, parenting, addiction, they come at the issues in different ways, ways they have never felt important to articulate to the other despite their deep, deep love. There are feelings of overpowering sorrow, grief, and a panic that it might be too late that pervades the whole of the book. Greaves draws out the reason for Frank's silence and the full circumstances that led to Maggie's attempted suicide, keeping it from the reader, building a sort of desperate anticipation and a heartbreaking undertone as the book moves forward. This is not a book about a marriage gone wrong so much as gone quiet, retreated. It is a book about a family crumbling and helpless. It bears witness to the deep importance and the devastating failures of communication, intimate and moving, emotional and poignant.

For more information about Abbie Greaves and the book, check our her author site, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, look at the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and publisher William Morrow for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I am in love with this book already. I absolutely have to read it. <3 Thank you for being on this tour! Sara @ TLC Book Tours


I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts