Frank and Maggie have been married, happily, for over 40 years. But six months ago, Frank, already the silent type, turned mute. He hasn’t spoken a word to Maggie in spite of her pleas. And so, feeling that desperate times call for desperate measures, she takes a large dose of sleeping pills and ends up in a medically induced coma. Frank, overcome with guilt, refuses to leave her side and begins to tell her the story of their life.
The first section of the book tells of their meeting, her initial pregnancy and their quick marriage, her late-term miscarriage. Frank is eager to portray Maggie as this larger-than-life almost saint, whom he has always just adored and worshipped, and it gets a little boring to be honest. The recital is broken up by visits from the nurse and the doctor, who tells Frank that soon he will have to make a decision as to his wife’s fate. Frank has to tell her why he stopped speaking to her, but since he’s going through their 40 year marriage, this is going to take some time!
I am not sure how far to go into the time line because I don’t want to give spoilers. I will tell you that things perk up a lot when we get to hear from Maggie herself, through the journal she kept during the last week before her suicide attempt. We learn that Maggie had her own secrets from Frank. Still, though, Maggie just always adored Frank so much! Apparently this couple has never had the kind of fight where they even temporarily hated the other person or were irritated by the other person. There’s lots of “if only you had known that I was only pretending to be angry; I worshipped your every mole!” or stuff like that. (That’s a paraphrase)
Years and years ago when I was a teenager, I read a book called Joanna’s Husband and David’s Wife. It’s kind of the same thing–you see the same marriage from the point of view of both people, he reading her journal. (I can’t comment on that book because it’s been too long and I only remember the premise and also that she had a pink coat for years and it was his fault!) The Silent Treatment, at least initially, reminded me a lot of that. Maggie was an angel and Frank not worthy of her; Frank was so patient and strong and Maggie was a flake who hid her great emotions and if only she had opened up to him, etc.
A lot of people are going to love The Silent Treatment. There are some twists along the way, but for me I needed a bit more distance from the characters. They remained a little flat for me. Although the major plot twist/addition is one I’m not mentioning, even there I really didn’t feel the characters shone as people in their own right. However, I do think there is a right audience for this book. It’s a really sweet book that doesn’t shy away from the hard parts of life, and how devastating secrets can be. If that sounds good to you, you’re going to love it!