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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Reliable Wife

Goolrick, Robert.  A Reliable Wife.

I've really wondered about how to review this ARC from Algonquin Books.  The beginning is slow as we are made privy to the thoughts of Ralph Truitt, a wealthy and lonely man, waiting at a Wisconsin train station in 1907 for the woman who has answered his add for a "reliable wife," a "simple honest woman."

The fifty-four year old Truitt's thoughts wander from his concern about what the townspeople think of him, to stories of madness and disaster that he reads in the newspapers, to thoughts of his younger, highly-sexualized self, and to shame combined with hope as he waits for the arrival of his prospective bride.

When Catherine Land arrives, however, the first deception is uncovered.  The photograph she sent him was of a plain young woman, and Catherine Land is beautiful.  As the Wisconsin snows cover the landscape hiding most of the features of the land, the characters in this novel reside under many layers of protective coloration.  In the West we associate white with weddings; in the East white symbolizes death. 

The novel is as cold as the snow...and yet full of lustful passion that provides little heat.  Not that there are graphic sex scenes, but that sex and thoughts of sex hold many of the relationships together.  The characters are not people you warm to, but you can sympathize with them at times.  They are complex, deceptive, despairing, and obsessive.  No one is exactly as they seem in this dark novel.

This is also the story of fathers and sons, guilt, remorse, and hope.  It is not a novel that I enjoyed, but after the first chapter, I was determined to make my way through all of the twists and turns the novel takes.

Fiction.  Drama.  2009.  291 pages.


  1. I can't decide if I want to read this or not. It looks good, but I don't know if it would catch my attention enough.

  2. I just got this one recently so I'm pretty excited. I'm sorry you didn't like it too much. I'll give it a go one of these days but I'll keep my expectations at a minimum :)

  3. That's about how I felt about it. I didn't love it, but I was determined to finish.

  4. Kailana - The beginning is slow and a bit vague, but the pace does pick up. At a certain point, it did hold my attention, but in a weird way...

    Iliana - I want to hear what you think about it. The characters have a strange fascination as you try to understand their behavior.

    Bookfool - Yes, after you're sucked in, you need to finish. Not a book that you can say you loved the characters, but one whose characters are forceful, nonetheless.