A Reliable Wife Robert Goolrick
291 Pages, Hardcover
**I originally reviewed an ARC copy of this book on December 31, 2008.
Summary (from GoodReads): 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.
I usually wait a few days to review a book, to let it settle a little bit, and so I don't gush too much. But in the interest of the new year, and tying up some loose ends, I figured I'd write about this book, which I was determined to finish in 2008.
I received this book earlier this week, and I couldn't help myself, I had to bump it up in front of my other review books. So bad, I know. Something about this book was really intriguing. And it wasn't at all what I expected, and I still really liked it. At its core, this book is about finding a kind of happiness or contentedness in a life consumed by grief, misery, and unquenchable lust.
There is a slow and torturous reveal of Catherine and Truitt's intentions and deceptions and each reveal is more and more disturbing. What makes it bearable in the end, at least for me, is that the characters are able to come to peace with a simple life--they can be happy with what is real and present, instead of longing for the future, which could supposedly bring something better but doesn't and won't exist.
I found Catherine's character to be more "relatable," but the reader is privy to more of her than of Truitt. Sometimes the things Truitt is able to forgive of Catherine and Antonio doesn't mesh with what he was unable to forgive in his previous life. But maybe this is just another method of atonement. Catherine's transition is much more believable, much more fleshed out.
The language was very lyrical and had that quality that I find difficult to describe. It feels formal and poetic and misty, if that really means anything, and I suppose it reflects the fogginess of the character's intentions.