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The talking cure

Cover of The Silent Patient
A review of The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Greek tragedy Alcestis by Euripides provides the backdrop for a painter named Alicia Berenson who has been institutionalized at The Grove after murdering her husband. Alicia shoots her husband five times in the face and never speaks another word. Her only communication after the murder is to paint a self-portrait entitled Alcestis. In the play, Alcestis sacrifices her life in order that her husband, King Admetus, may live. After a trip to Hades, Alcestis returns to the living and Admetus minus her voice. How does this correlate with a perplexing and gruesome murder? It's not until a new criminal psychotherapist named Theo arrives at The Grove and takes over Alicia's treatment that the story unfolds. 

The Silent Patient is edgy, blistering, and filled with so many twists, turns, and red herrings the reader is left wondering what's real, imagined, manufactured or drug induced. The intensity of the characters is offset by therapy sessions that are hypnotic and seemingly providing resolution. But just when you think you know a 'why' or a 'where' or a 'how come' something else comes to light that leaves you reeling. The emotions feel very real. At its heart, this is a story of obsession, betrayal and lost love. 

An author interview reveals that first time novelist Alex Michaelides is a screenwriter and familiar with writing big plots that get wrapped up at a fast pace. I was engrossed in the frenetic setting at The Grove and drawn into the suspense the way I do when watching a film so this makes sense to me  Michaelides' sister is a psychiatrist and he had a part-time job in a secure psychiatric unit as a teenager. He claims these influences and experiences provided inspiration for the book. I believe his skill as a writer and researcher offer a richness and validity that lures the reader toward the unexpected and shocking ending.

May 23, 2019