Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (2019) 4 Stars ****

You’ll need patience to delve into this psychological mystery. The most important plot points unfold slowly while hints are given as to the surprise ending. Pay attention to the musings and confessions of the main character, Theo Faber, a forensic psychotherapist, and the admonishments (perceptions?) of Professor Diomedes,  director of the Grove, a psychiatric facility in England. Theo applies for and is given a position as a psychotherapist at this facility. He is obsessed with making the silent patient, Alicia Berenson, talk after six years of self-imposed silence after brutally murdering her beloved husband. Theo tells us, “There was no time to waste: Alicia was lost. She was missing. And I intended to find her.”

Relationships intertwine. All characters have secrets. Spouses, psychiatrists ( also psychotherapists), patients, aides, and neighbors are not as they appear. They all have complicated histories with Alicia Berenson. Each one offers up a piece of the puzzle as Theo Faber breaks rules and traditions, employing unconventional methods to get to the bottom of things. An excellent question: What truly motivates him in this seemingly impossible goal?

Alicia refuses to talk, but this formerly acclaimed artist, who has become even more popular after her scandalous act, has painted a self-portrait, entitled Alcestis, which is her non-verbal explanation for her state of mind at the time of her out of character violent episode. Looking for cluesTheo reads Alcestis, a Greek myth. “Alcestis is the heroine of a Greek myth. A love story of the saddest kind. Alcestis willingly sacrifices her life for that of her husband, Admetus, dying in his place when no one else will. An unsettling myth of self-sacrifice, it was unclear how it related to Alicia’s situation. The true meaning of the allusion remained unknown to me. Until one day, the truth came to light—”

Theo is perceived as a person with his act together. Professor Diomedes repeatedly warns him against becoming entangled with his patients so much that the barriers between them fade, and the therapist and patient become one. Theo is convinced that he is above any such danger. He is in control of all things and has no fear of any weaknesses—other than loving his wife way too much. He is obsessed with her, their relationship, her impact on his life. Hmmm.

“What?” is what you will say out loud at the ending which is quite a surprise for most readers, unless you’ve been tracking the opaque clues. This adds a pop to this book and increases its esteem. Otherwise, it might be perceived as tedious reading for some. I believe the ending makes it all worthwhile. Be patient. It’s labeled a psychological mystery for a reason.

Any fan of psychology and psychotherapy will enjoy this book. The mind often creates its own reality. Can we truly let go of our pasts and the incidents and people from our childhoods? Or do these memories stay with us, waiting for the right moment for revenge?  Hmmm.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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