The Uneasy Truth of the Silent Patient

In the recent past, true crime dramas have become more popular with television shows being created to explore the complexities of domestic disputes, murders, and violence. Michaelides’ The Silent Patient could serve as a rich source of content for creators working to create such dramas. Intense, dynamic, and complex, The Silent Patient provides readers with insights into the processes, events, and forces that push a woman to commit violent murder. 

Plot Summary

The Silent Patient focuses on the life of Alicia Berenson, a young woman who is believed to have murdered her husband. It has been six years since Berenson killed the husband and during this entire time, she has said no word. Her silence attracts the attention of Theo Faber, a psychotherapist who wishes to understand the forces that motivated Berenson to murder the husband in such gruesome fashion. The book then proceeds to explore the strange yet intriguing interactions between Faber and his patient.

In its depiction of the exchange between Faber and Berenson, the Silent Patient gives special attention to an artwork that Berenson created. Named Alcestis, this artwork could hold clues to its creator’s motives. The main clue is that the name of this creation echoes that of Greek goddess who is believed to have given her life in a bid to rescue her husband.  The incorporation of Greek mythology into the book certainly adds to its appeal and richness. 

Main Themes

Mental Illness and Violence 

There are a number of important themes that the Silent Patient investigates. One of these themes is mental health and its association with violence. The involvement of Faber suggests that Michaelides believed that Berenson was pushed to murder a husband that she loved dearly by mental disturbance. While it is true that there could be a link between mental illness and violent behavior, Michaelides should have proceeded with caution. Portraying individuals struggling with mental disorders as violent could fuel stigma and discourage them from seeking help. 

Value of Mental Healthcare 

Another subject that Michaelides examines is the role that mental healthcare plays in securing the wellbeing of the mentally ill. For example, despite understanding that Berenson was deeply troubled, Faber took the initiative to lead her toward recovery. An argument can be made that Faber is intended to serve as a representation of mental health practitioners who seek to support and heal individuals who are taunted by the horrors of mental illness.

Effective Mental Health Interventions 

The specific interventions that mental health experts can implement as they help their patients to heal are yet another theme that the Silent Patient sheds light on. Some of these interventions include empathetic and non-judgmental listening as well as therapy. For example, instead of imposing his ideas about what ailed Berenson, Faber stepped back and allowed her to take charge of their therapy sessions. Additionally, he sought to establish rapport with Berenson. Faber’s attempts to support Berenson are indeed heartwarming and they underscore the role that human connections can play in promoting healing and wellness. 

In addition to outlining some of the most effective interventions that can be adopted to restore the health and dignity of the mentally ill, the Silent Patient also highlights various ineffective practices that belong in by-gone eras. Among these is locking individuals with mental illness in maximum security facilities. For example, following the murder of her husband, Berenson is held in such a facility. Michaelides decries America’s tendency to implement tough sanctions and punishment instead of delivering help to the most vulnerable such as the mentally ill. 

The Horrors of Murderous Violence

How violence can cause devastation is another subject that is explored extensively in the Silent Patient. This book examines this book by placing Berenson at the center. In particular, by showing how killing her husband pushed Berenson into years of silence and mental disturbance, the book highlights the damage that can result from violence. It makes clear that even perpetrators of violence experience violence’s deleterious effects. In fact, the book actually suggests that those who commit violent acts actually bear the brunt of their violence. 

What Michaelides Gets Right

There are many issues that set Silent Patient apart from other books that explore similar themes. Among these issues is the decision by Michaelides to step back and narrate the story through the voice of Faber. Faber provides readers with a more in-depth, personal and insider look into the complexities of mental health and healthcare. By narrating the developments in the book, Faber gives a human touch to Berenson’s pain and helps readers to understand that domestic violence is complex and cannot be understood as a clear cut, white-and-black issue. 

The decision to tackle mental health and domestic violence is yet another issue that Michaelides got right. Other authors would probably have shied away from these topics, finding them to be too sensitive, controversial and intimidating. Michaelides demonstrated his daring spirit by exploring important subjects that have not received proper coverage in literature. This book could certainly be included in the curricula of schools preparing students to deliver mental health services.

How Michaelides manages to keep readers engrossed is yet another way that he sets his book apart from others. Once they pick the book up, readers will not even want to take a break. It pushes them to keep turning the pages as they seek to determine whether Berenson truly murdered her husband and to establish her reasons. Michaelides managed to strike a balance between providing readers with enough information to stay interested while retaining some mystery. 

The fact that it is thrilling and that its plot is plausible is another feature of the Silent Patient that helps this book to keep readers engrossed. Instead of presenting ridiculous plot elements, Michaelides focuses on developments that reflect actual human experiences. This is among the strengths of the book that make it so relatable and appealing. It is not surprising that this book has been adapted into a film. However, to get the best insights, readers should begin with the book before watching the film adaptation. Films tend to corrupt and water down the books on which they are based. 

Disappointments and Frustrations

As noted above, there are various features that help the Silent Patient to emerge from the large collection of thrillers that readers can choose from. However, it should be understood that there are some elements of the book that readers will find to be disappointing and somewhat frustrating. One of the book’s few flaws is that it is poorly organized. It takes too long for readers to understand what the book is about. Some characters and events are introduced too late that some readers may drop the book before getting to the interesting portions.

In closing, for readers interested in thrilling and immensely interesting books, the Silent Patient would be an obvious choice. Despite the weighty and serious themes that the book addresses, it still manages to be light, casual and relatable. It is almost unbelievable that Michaelides was able to strike a fine balance between a casual narration style and the exploration of concrete subjects. The Silent Patient is certainly a gem in a class of its own. 

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