Home > Book, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Reviews > Book Review – ‘A Reliable Wife’ by Robert Goolrick

Book Review – ‘A Reliable Wife’ by Robert Goolrick

Book Description:

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 was left so conflicted by this debut novel ‘A Reliable Wife‘ by Robert Goolrick. I couldn’t stop reading it, but I so regretted even starting to read it in the first place when I realized how agonizingly dark of a psychological horror story it was going to be. The characters are some of the most awful people I’ve ever met in a novel, and yet, I ended up rooting for all of them to somehow have a happy ending. Everybody isn’t exactly who you think they are at the start, and yet, when you find out who they are truly, it’s completely understandable why they are how they are. Am I making any sense? I was left completely heartbroken in the end, and yet, I had to agree with the author, how else could the story have ended so that at least some of the characters would be able to go on with their lives clutching some happiness?

I want to recommend it to all my friends, truly, but I’ll be adding so many caveats to my recommendation I might as well spoil all the novel’s secrets. Because secrets? it has a-plenty. That short book description? It’s completely accurate, and yet, so off-tangent at the same time. Yes, it starts out with successful businessman Ralph Truitt waiting for his mail-order bride. And yes, the mail-order bride Catherine Land is a fortune-hunter of the worst kind. But this is just the first layer, because they are more than that. The whole book is this onion, and every time you turn a chapter, a layer comes off, and you discover a completely different story hidden within it. Like I said, I’m so completely conflicted.

Basically, expect the unexpected when you start reading. And expect to be reeled in and hooked, even as you react with horror with how awful to each other the novel’s characters are – Ralph Truitt, Catherine Land and Ralph’s step-son Antonio Morreti. They are all beautiful and terrible, hypersexualized and repressed, emotional and closed-off, restrained and violent, depraved and holy, hopeful and despairing, full of love and hate, full of bitterness and forgiveness … such complete contradictions all at the same time… One thing I can say without being conflicted about it – it’s an amazing debut novel by Robert Goolrick. I can’t wait for his next novel for sure.

‘A Reliable Wife’ by Robert Goolrick is available on Amazon as a Hardcover ($16.29), Paperback ($8.97) and Kindle Edition ($5.82).

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  1. January 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

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