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A Reliable Wife

by Robert Goolrick

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,1663301,959 (3.3)239
Ralph Truitt, a wealthy businessman with a troubled past who lives in a remote nineteenth-century Wisconsin town, has advertised for a reliable wife; and his ad is answered by Catherine Land, a woman who makes every effort to hide her own dark secrets.
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Showing 1-5 of 319 (next | show all)
Told in two parts, A Reliable Wife is about the arranged marriage between Ralph Truitt and Catherine Land. I gave this book 3.5 stars which I rounded up to 4 stars on Goodreads.

As I read, I went through a myriad of reactions in response to Ralph and Catherine. Ralph at times would evoke sympathy in me and then in the next paragraph I would be appalled at what he was remembering or thinking. The same thing would happen when I would read things from Catherine's point of view. Ralph really wants to be loved and though Catherine doesn't realize it at first, she just wants to be loved too. Both characters have a huge amount of darkness and regrets in equal measure so you see that they actually in a weird odd way make sense as a couple.

However, as I progressed through the book, I wished that we had more insight into other characters in this book. We had Ralph's son and Catherine's sister who just seemed very flat when compared to how layered Ralph and Catherine were in my opinion. I thought that Ralph's son was just a ridiculous one note character that was mean and awful.

The setting of Wisconsin in 1909 felt very real. Throughout the entire book I just had a feeling of being cold the entire time. Wisconsin sounded desolate and sad. And I still wondered how in the world Ralph's first wife even managed to find people to come to this out of the way place to hold her salons.

The writing gave me some issues as I read. I initially had a hard time with this book I think because Mr. Goolrick was exceptionally wordy in the first part of this book and even after we hit part two I thought that there was a lot of repetitiveness that was going on. I think he wrote very flowery language throughout which of course I don't have a problem with. I had a problem with it saying the exact same though several pages. And the flow of the book was all off until we got to part two.

I thought part two was written as differently as part one could be. The pace of the story increases substantially. I felt like I was holding my breath the entire way through to the end. There was a huge plot twist thrown in that I didn't see coming that had me dropping my jaw. I would say though that the more I thought about it, the plot twist didn't make sense and even the character motivations started to fall apart the more you thought about things.

All in all a very interesting book, however, I would probably not re-read it again in the future.

Please be warned that there is a scene depicting one of the characters being raped that was quite graphic.

Please note that I received this for free via the Amazon Vine Program. This book was released on January 26, 2010. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
This book is about three people through 1907 and 1908 in Wisconsin, Saint Louis and Chicago. Sex is a strong force in this book and it shows poor self control mainly with two of the characters. The self control of Ralph Truitt is amazing and the way toward the end of his life, he forgives so much, he becomes the character that I like the most. I hope he and Catherine can go on and build a new life with their new baby at the end. ( )
  LilQuebe | Jun 2, 2020 |
Beautiful, clear language with flawed but thought-provoking characters. It was also more mature than I'd expected, but it fitted the story. Not perfect but a story (well-)told nonetheless. ( )
  greaterporpoise | May 29, 2020 |
I’m not sure if this is a genre, but this novel would fit nicely into a category called Gothic Erotica. A Reliable Wife is like Rebecca on Viagra.

The story is set in Wisconsin in the winter of 1907, a lonely man places an ad for a “Reliable Wife,” and a “simple, honest woman” responds and is accepted. Both have ulterior motives filled with secret desires and deceptions. Goolrick creates an atmosphere of winter claustrophobia heavy with sexual tension, madness, despair and revenge. He skillfully dissects love, with all of it’s manifestations in passion, lust, obsession, and revenge.

His writing style is in turn overwritten at times and spare at others. As one reviewer put it, “Raw and lyrical at the same time.” Because he wants to surprise the reader with a twist in the tale, there are incongruities in the character’s stories (he is not very adept at this and should probably read some early Jeffrey Archer short stories to see how this is done.) I had the “twist” figured out pretty quickly. But even knowing where the story was going I still found it a compelling and entertaining read and finished it in a couple of days.
( )
  tshrope | Jan 13, 2020 |
In 1907, a very wealthy man named Ralph Truitt has advertised for a ÛÏreliable wife‰Û to come and join him in holy matrimony in his cold, lonely home in Wisconsin. The woman who shows up, Catherine Land, is not at all what Ralph expected; in fact she is not who she portrayed herself to be. Catherine and Ralph both have secrets and their relationship will unfold in an intense and dangerous way.

This is not the kind of novel that I usually enjoy; the prose was too grandiose for my taste, and the plot was overheated and kind of ridiculous. It seemed almost more like a parable than a story about real people. But it wasn‰Ûªt a book I could put aside until I was finished, and it is not one that I immediately forgot about. So I recommend this with reservations; it‰Ûªs not for everyone, it‰Ûªs very dark, but it‰Ûªs different and memorable. ( )
  AngeH | Jan 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 319 (next | show all)
Don't be fooled by the prissy cover or that ironic title. Robert Goolrick's first novel, "A Reliable Wife," isn't just hot, it's in heat: a gothic tale of such smoldering desire it should be read in a cold shower. This is a bodice ripper of a hundred thousand pearly buttons, ripped off one at a time with agonizing restraint. It works only because Goolrick never cracks a smile, never lets on that he thinks all this overwrought sexual frustration is anything but the most serious incantation of longing and despair ever uttered in the dead of night.
Through repetitive and rhythmically hypnotic prose, Goolrick drives home the characters' loneliness, sexual yearnings, self-loathing and fear. He infuses his novel with the inevitable notion that things will end badly for this damaged family. But he lets us discover for ourselves the breadth and magnitude of dysfunction and the deadly conspiracy in which Catherine and Ralph are, ironically, both complicit.
added by Shortride | editUSA Today, Carol Memmott (Apr 6, 2009)
Set in 1907 Wisconsin, Goolrick's fiction debut (after a memoir, The End of the World as We Know It) gets off to a slow, stylized start, but eventually generates some real suspense. When Catherine Land, who's survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of a "reliable wife," she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she's deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn't die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect. This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close. ( )
added by ehines | editPublishers Weekly

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"Be not dishearten'd-Affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet; Those who love each other shall become invincible." Walt Whitman, "Over the Carnage Rose a Prophetic Voice"
For Jeanne Voltz who was better to me than I was to myself with eternal love and gratitude and for my darling brother and sister B and Lindlay.
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It was bitter cold, the air electric with all that had not happened yet.
"Nothing says hell has to be fire, thought Ralph Truitt, standing in his sober clothes on the platform of a tiny train station in the frozen middle of frozen nowhere."

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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.

Robert Goolrick's first novel, "A Reliable Wife," isn't just hot, it's in heat: a gothic tale of such smoldering desire it should be read in a cold shower. This is a bodice ripper of a hundred thousand pearly buttons, ripped off one at a time with agonizing restraint. It works only because Goolrick never cracks a smile, never lets on that he thinks all this overwrought sexual frustration is anything but the most serious incantation of longing and despair ever uttered in the dead of night.
The novel is deliciously wicked and tense, presented as a series of sepia tableaux, interrupted by flashes of bright red violence. The whole thing takes place in a fever pitch of exquisite sensations and boundless grief in a place where "the winters were long, and tragedy and madness rose in the pristine air." The word "alone" spreads through these pages like mold in the cellar, until it's everywhere.

In addition to A Reliable Wife, ROBERT GOOLRICK is the author of the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town. Visit him online at robertgoolrick.com.
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