The Silent Killer in ‘The Silent Patient’
Friend. Lover. Anchor. Confidant. Supporter. Soulmate.
Gabriel Berenson was the lifeboat that kept the sanity of Alicia Berenson afloat.
Theo Faber worshipped the love that bloomed in his heart for his dear, darling Kathy.
Lies. Mistrust. Rejection. Deception. Mockery. Betrayal.
Suddenly, the tides turned.
And Gabriel was no more the anchor. He was the worm that ate the wood. He was the reason the ship sank.
Kathy couldn’t love Theo no more. Theo couldn’t see Kathy in the eyes anymore.
Published in 2019, by Celadon Books, Alex Michaelides pens down the most intriguing, heart-wrenching story of loss. Loss of love, loss of childhood, loss of sanity, loss of life, loss of innocence, loss of promises, loss of identity. A bewitching tale that intertwines the tragic tale of Alcestis and Alicia, ‘The Silent Killer’ has made a special seat for itself in the hall of fame.
Alicia Berenson, a famous photographer, who is head over heels in love with her husband, Gabriel, one day shoots him five times in the face.
And then she becomes silent. For a long, long time.
While a child, the loss of her mother tears her apart. She looks for a safe haven. A shelter to put herself under it. She yearns for her father to take her into his arms and love her, care for her, like her mother did. But he never does. Instead, he curses her to die in place of his wife. And she starts to die inside. She feels the pain for a long time. She is angry, emotional, dying on the inside, craving for sanity, and she’s hurt. A lot. She never faces her father, though. She grows up and she remembers the pain and the rage. Eventually, it’s just a numb feeling now buried under all her childhood memories.
Then she meets Gabriel Berenson. Her knight in shining armour. Her motivation. Her support. She is happy. She is glad. She is safe. She feels the love that Gabriel has for her. She embraces the care that he gives her. She becomes faithfully his. She starts planning a family with him. And then the paranoid enters. She senses someone stalking her. Something sinister lurks in her shadows, near her house, inside her home.
And then it happens, the mystery occurs.
Theo Faber, a forensic psychologist, has a childhood filled with disappointed parents and disappointed memories. He finds something/someone to hold on to in Kathy. His soulmate, he believes in and adore. He is obsessed with Alicia Berenson’s silence of five long years. And in the midst of his investigation, he finds that Kathy is cheating on him with a stranger. He is disoriented, like Alicia. Then it is a series of similarities of loss of childhood innocence of Alicia and Theo that weaves the most part of the book.
The realisation of the losses come in with the innermost workings of the human soul. A book so enchantingly suspenseful that it becomes rather difficult, a lot difficult, to keep it down until it is finished. It is through the narration of inner psychosis of the characters that readers untangle the mystery behind Alicia’s violence. Gabriel cheats on Alicia with Kathy. And the masked man who keeps haunting Alicia’s shadow is Theo, a true psychopath, one could say.
As Michaelides notes Freud’s concept, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways.”
So Alicia is hurt. Hurt from her father, hurt because of Gabriel. Two people who were supposed to be the pillars of her life, who were supposed to share her sorrows, love her and cherish her, trashed her trust and betrayed her in the most animalistic, heart-shattering, and senseless way possible. As Diomedes tells Theo, “Trust, once lost, is hard to recover.”
So is the tragedy like Alicia’s enters Theo’s blissful life. You put your life, your heart, your soul, your passions, your dreams, and your being into the hands of the person who has promised to love you, care for you, makes you happy, makes you smile, laugh, giggle, makes you better, and breathes a bit of life inside you each day. So when that life reveals the truth, you can barely make sense of the reality. You are lost. You are hurt. You are silent, like Alicia.
One of the most reverberating passages from the book that takes the reader on a journey behind Alicia’s violent act in a few words, goes:
“Imagine it- hearing your father, the very person you depend upon for your survival, wishing you dead. How terrifying that must be for a child, how traumatising- how your sense of self-worth would implode; and the pain would be too great, too huge to feel, so you’d swallow it, repress it, bury it. Over time you would lose contact with the origins of your trauma, dissociate the roots of its cause, and forget. But one day, all the hurt and anger would burst forth, like fire from a dragon’s belly- and you’ll pick up a gun. You’ll visit that rage not upon your father, who was dead and forgotten and out of reach- but upon your husband, the man who had taken his place in your life, who loved you and shared your bed. You’d shoot him five times in the head, without possibly even knowing why.”