Author: Robert Goolrick
Release Date: March 31, 2009
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the publisher's website:
Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.
With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.
I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to find the words to review A Reliable Wife, and so far I haven't had any luck. This is definitely one of the hardest books I've ever had to review because I can't exactly pinpoint why I enjoyed it so thoroughly. I can only say that I absolutely loved it – I raced through the entire book in one sitting, eager to find out what happens at the end of this provocative novel.
Let's start with the writing style of A Reliable Wife. Goolrick's prose is, quite simply, beautiful. It is what draws the reader into the novel, and in many ways, what keeps him or her hooked. It's wonderfully poetic and smooth. It is never jarring and there is never a word out of place. Goolrick's writing adds so much to the story, makes it so much more compelling than it would have been otherwise.
The characters in A Reliable Wife are a little more difficult to explain. None of them are exactly easy to like; they don't really endear themselves to the reader. However, I couldn't help but love Catherine from the very beginning, despite her questionable past and malicious intentions. As each of their stories unfolds, the characters grow on the reader. This isn't a book that is carried by the affability of the characters; indeed, if anything, I was surprised at how much I could enjoy a book where I didn't like some of the characters! Still, Goolrick is a master at creating intricate, nuanced characters that are full of life.
Ultimately, A Reliable Wife is about redemption. Can all people be redeemed and forgiven, no matter how horrible their past deeds are? I think the message of the book is that you have to actively seek out redemption; it will not come to you by chance. But the question is, is it ever too late to be redeemed?
I definitely recommend A Reliable Wife. It is a great read, but isn't for everyone – there is a lot of sex in the book, more inner monologue than actual occurrences, but if that type of thing bothers you in a novel, you may want to pass on this one. If it doesn't, I'd definitely say to pick this one up – it's a breathtaking read that will stick with you for a really long time.
Thank you to the publisher for sending me this book to review!
Amy, Jen and I have put together a mini blog tour for this book. Make sure you check out their reviews as well!