The Silent Patient

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I listened to this book entirely on audio - TWICE!   I've read a lot of books that, when I get to the end, I think huh, I didn't see that coming. Then I tell myself that one day, when I have time, I'll return and reread the book and pay more attention to details to see if I should've seen it coming.  This book was short enough, and I was way ahead on my book club reading, that I didn't hesitate.  As soon as it was over I started it again.  I contemplated starting over at Part 5, Ch. 1 but I finished the entire book first.  I did pick up a couple of details I had missed on the second time through - but overall, the book is misleading.  Because I listened to the audio, I may not spell names properly.

The issues comes from the timeline which is not clearly laid out.  In several scenes we see the main character at work, and then in the next chapter he is out for an evening with Kathy, or he goes home to find she is not home.  You assume that this is after the same day's work that we were reading in the previous chapter.  That is not actually the case.  Most books on a two-level timeline will have time references at the beginning of chapters or when there is a switch.  This one does not, except for the journal entries.  You can see that the patient's storyline flashbacks are going to intersect with current day, but it is the doctor's timeline that is more vague.

The book has a bit of a unique opening in that the narrator is talking directly to the reader but does not introduce themself until Ch. 3.

On a scale of 1 - 5 (5 being a lot of examples/instances):

Sex:  2

Religion: 1  

Gruesome:  2  

Suspense:  2

Morality:  3

Traditional:  4

Sex - Hookup between Kathy and the psychotherapist. (Part 1, Ch. 10)  A factual account of marital sex. (Part 3, Ch. 1, 8 August)  Groping, kissing, and an analysis of moans. (Part 4, Ch. 5)

Religion - a wedding without God but the psychotherapist prayed and felt renewal with God. (Part 1, Ch. 10)

Gruesome - Part 1, Ch. 2 describes a murder scene.  Part 1, Ch. 3 includes child abuse and stories from a psych ward.

Suspense - Is there a man following Alicia?  The break-in scene.

Morality - A man discovers lewd emails between his wife and another man. (Part 2, Ch. 6)  A man spies on his unfaithful wife in the act. (Part 4, Ch. 5)

Traditional - Theo, the psychotherapist, smokes weed. (Part 2, Ch. 6)  No flagrant homosexual or gender topics.

Character Details

Alicia, the patient, is 39.  Six years ago she killed her husband, Gabriel, who was 44.  Alicia had been married to Gabriel for 7 years.

Kathy is an actress who has been married for 9 years to Theo. (Part 2, Ch. 6)  She was around 33 when she met Theo.  Kathy and Theo met via double infidelity because they were each dating other people who introduced them to each other.

Theo is 42 when he comes to work at The Grove, where Alicia has been a patient for 6 years.

The book also has a cast of mental health workers with international connections:

Discussion Questions

How did meeting your in-laws for the first time help you understand your spouse better.  (Part 1, Ch. 10)

After he wed Kathy, Theo realized God hadn't abandoned him as a child but had Kathy "up His sleeve".  (Part 1, Ch. 10) Or was it God's plan so Theo could share the experience with Alicia?

Alicia said that cigarettes, vodka, and Nivea hand cream were smells that reminded her of her mother. (Part 2, Ch. 1)  What smells remind you of your mom or other significant people?

Ruth, Theo's therapist-mentor, says, "Love that doesn't include honesty doesn't deserve to be called love." (Part 2, end Ch. 9)  Was Ruth right?  Does this maxim apply to all types of love?

Do you believe that the seeds of murderous rage are planted in childhood? (Part 1, Ch. 8)

When Yuri told his backstory in the pub, (Part 1, Ch. 9) he said he fell in love with a woman down the street and watched her before working up the courage to speak to her.  This made Theo uncomfortable.  What does this tell us about Theo since he did something similar?

Alicia saw a small bird that she thought was hurt but when she picked it up the underside was gone and full of maggots.  (Part 2, Ch. 1)  What is the purpose of this scene?  Does it symbolize or foreshadow something or provide insight into a character?

Jean Felix said the Christ picture of Gabriel shows what was on Alicia's mind one month before the murder. (Part 2, Ch. 20)  Was it premeditated?  Alicia said she'd rather be lonely than with the wrong person. (Part 2, Ch. 22)  Did Alicia see Gabriel or Theo as her savior?

Discuss the theme of fear that runs throughout this novel.

Discuss the theme of jealousy that runs throughout this novel.

Who was the most sincere character?  Who was the most believable character?

Why did Jean Felix tell Alicia she was too trusting and caution her against trusting the people around her? (Part 3, 8 August)

What were your theories throughout the novel?  How did they change after Theo read Alicia's diary?  How did they change after Theo's rant in the bushes. (Part 4, Ch. 5)

Did you believe there was a man following Alicia?  When Barbie showed Theo the photo of the man behind the tree, Theo told the reader he wasn't convinced. (Part 2, Ch. 30)  Did Theo's comment affect your assessment of the existence of the man?

Throughout the novel there are several occasions when Theo's hands get injured.  They get cut from glass, scratched from branches, and scratched by Alicia.  He also gets bashed in the head.  Is this an unusual amount of injuries and what do they signify?

Theo "lays bait" and waits to see how Jean Felix and Max will react.  (Part 4, Ch. 6)  Did Theo ever see their reaction? 

Is Theo responsible for Gabriel's death?

Discuss the symbolism of snow throughout the novel.

If Alicia was in a coma after the morphine, and was fuzzy when writing the journal entry, how did the diary get behind the painting in the studio?

Theme Ideas

Serve sweet, small tomatoes, smoked salmon, slivers of bread and champagne.  (I think this was a picnic that Alicia and Gabriel went on.)