cover image The Silent Treatment

The Silent Treatment

Abbie Greaves. Morrow, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-293384-3

Greaves’s confident, bittersweet debut explores an unhappy married couple’s enduring love. After Maggie, Frank’s wife of 40 years, is induced into a coma following an apparent suicide attempt, Frank spends hours at her hospital bedside. Despite Frank’s shame and reluctance, a persistent nurse encourages Frank to talk to his inert wife. What the nurse doesn’t know, however, is that Frank and Maggie haven’t spoken to one another in six months. The reasons for their silence unfold in dual narratives of their courtship, marriage, and heartbreaking journey through parenthood, related first in Frank’s bedside confession and later in Maggie’s letters that he finds. After years of childlessness early in their marriage, Frank and Maggie were overjoyed at the birth of their daughter, Eleanor, now a college dropout. The bliss faded as Eleanor suffered from depression and drug addiction as a teenager. While Greaves’s choice to tell the story through both Frank’s and Maggie’s voices yields occasional moments of redundancy, she finds a poignant distance between their perspectives. Greaves creates an affecting sense of irony: Maggie and Frank adore one another, but retreat into silence instead of finding strength by sharing their heartache and facing their struggles together. While this affecting tale covers well-trod ground, it still packs an emotional punch. (Apr.)