Review: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Author: Robert Goolrick
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Source: Personal Copy
Robert Goolrick creates a near winner with his stark and austere tale about Ralph Truitt, a wealthy business man in a turn-of-the-century remote Wisconsin town. In the local newspaper, he places an advertisement for a "reliable wife" to be a part of his life plan. After receiving multiple inquiries, Ralph decides to go with "a simple honest woman" by the name of Catherine Land. Catherine journeys to Wisconsin with a desire to escape her past and a plan of her own, with the ends justifying the means. This becomes apparent in the beginning when Ralph realizes that the picture Catherine sent is not of her but of some unknown woman.
Starting out as a seemingly slow and typical romance, the story turns into an unconventional gothic psychological mystery. Everything surrounding the living is in a state of decay and abandonment, with the frigid and barren Wisconsin winter, known for driving the inhabitants of the town to insanity, bearing down hard. Ralph's own desire to escape loneliness, especially in his bed, keeps him married to the mysterious Catherine even after figuring out her motives are not as pure as they first appeared. Add in the search for Ralph's foppish estranged son and the tangled web of violence and deceit quickly begins to unwind. There were actually a lot of plot twists for such a short book.
However, I'm more 'meh' about this novel than anything. I think the writing was decent as well as the pacing and storyline, but the one-dimensional, sex obsessed characters started to negate the other exciting aspects that the author created. The characters were not particularly likable and had very few redeeming qualities. If anything, I think this detracted from the story telling. Despite poor character development, A Reliable Wife is a beautifully written examination of love, in many forms, and the everlasting consequences of those relationships. Goolrick's lyrical character driven story is complex and messy, just like life itself.