Jennifer Lane's Reviews > The Silent Patient

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
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Therapy Thriller

When I read books involving psychotherapy, especially by authors who aren't therapists, sometimes I feel disappointed by the lack of authenticity. But this novel, in addition to weaving taut threads of a murder mystery, offers beautiful and true insights into therapy that I really enjoyed.

Theo is a psychotherapist in his early 40s who is fascinated by a famous painter, Alicia, convicted of murdering her husband. He worms his way into a job at the criminal psychiatric hospital that houses her.

From the first pages, describing the setting through Theo's eyes:

I arrived at The Grove pursued by an icy January wind. The bare trees stood like skeletons along the road.

...to Theo's description of his own therapy in college with a kindly older woman, Ruth:

I talked about my childhood, my home, my parents. As I talked, I found that no matter how distressing the details I related, I could feel nothing. I was disconnected from my emotions, like a hand severed from a wrist.

I would occasionally look up at Ruth's face. To my surprise, tears would be collecting in her eyes as she listened. This may seem hard to grasp, but those tears were not hers.

They were mine.


...I cheered for Theo, hoping he can cajole Alicia to break her silence so that she starts healing from the likely trauma that lurks in her childhood.

Theo muses that most psychotherapists enter the field in an attempt to heal themselves--that they are damaged people with their own childhood trauma. Eep. *squirms*

Theo was physically and emotionally abused by his father, and as an adult, he smokes cigarettes and marijuana. His description of his initial response to weed deftly demonstrates the genetic component of addiction:

I swallowed down the thick smoke and tried not to cough. Initially all I felt was a little light on my feet. Then--a minute or so later--something happened. Something incredible. It was like being drenched in an enormous wave of well-being. I felt safe, relaxed, totally at ease, silly and unself-conscious.

Before long I was smoking weed every day. It became my best friend, my inspiration, my solace.


What happened to Alicia? Did she kill her husband, and if so, why? Will she break through the psychic pain silencing her in order to speak her voice? Desperate to find answers to these questions, Theo explores Alicia's past to find clues.

As babies, we are innocent sponges, blank slates. But something goes wrong. A tormented, abused child can never take revenge in reality, as she is powerless and defenseless, but she can--and must--harbor vengeful fantasies in her imagination.

In this suspenseful story, it turns out the past has a huge influence on the present.
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Quotes Jennifer Liked

Alex Michaelides
“...we often mistake love for fireworks - for drama and dysfunction. But real love is very quiet, very still. It's boring, if seen from the perspective of high drama. Love is deep and calm - and constant.”
Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient
tags: love

Alex Michaelides
“Choosing a lover is a lot like choosing a therapist. We need to ask ourselves, is this someone who will be honest with me, listen to criticism, admit making mistakes, and not promise the impossible?”
Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient

Alex Michaelides
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive, and will come forth later, in uglier ways. —SIGMUND FREUD”
Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient

Alex Michaelides
“No one is born evil. As Winnicott put it, “A baby cannot hate the mother, without the mother first hating the baby.”
Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient

Alex Michaelides
“At the time I didn’t understand. But that’s how therapy works. A patient delegates his unacceptable feelings to his therapist; and she holds everything he is afraid to feel, and feels it for him. Then, ever so slowly, she feeds his feelings back to him.”
Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient

Alex Michaelides
“We are made up of different parts, some good, some bad, and a healthy mind can tolerate this ambivalence and juggle both good and bad at the same time. Mental illness is precisely about a lack of this kind of integration - we end up losing contact with the unacceptable parts of ourselves.”
Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient


Reading Progress

February 6, 2019 – Shelved
February 6, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
February 6, 2019 – Shelved as: recommended-by-goodreads-friend
February 6, 2019 – Shelved as: psychology
February 6, 2019 – Shelved as: mystery
March 30, 2019 – Started Reading
March 30, 2019 –
page 200
61.54% "Hmm I have some ideas brewing but typically I'm a bad mystery guesser!"
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: book-club
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: dysfunctional-family-fun
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: male-pov
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: prison
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: thriller
March 31, 2019 – Shelved as: wounded-hero
March 31, 2019 – Finished Reading

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