Sunday, February 28, 2010
Review: A Reliable Wife
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Reasons for reading: Book club selection for March
Description: "He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for "a reliable wife." She responded, saying that she was "a simple, honest woman." She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved. What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love."
First line: "It was bitter cold, the air electric with all that had not happened yet."
My thoughts: This one didn't really do it for me. My friend Vidalia described it as "dreary" and a lot of it is, slogging through the Wisconsin winter. It's an intriguing premise, the ad in the paper. And there's also a lot of lust and sexual guilt and attempted murder! But even those didn't really spice it up much. The lust and guilt made me feel rather icky (particularly Truitt's religious zealot mother who brands him as a lustful sinner from the moment of his birth). And a lot of the time I found myself saying to the characters, especially Catherine, "What are you doing? Stop this and live a decent life, it's not that hard! You can change the path you're on." I don't buy the "they would fall so completely in love" from the description - Truitt appears to love Catherine and she loves him in a way, but it's hardly the romance of the century. They each have secrets and misdeeds and ulterior motives. But there are some twists and turns that jazzed it up a bit.
There are also these weird references to people going mad, killing themselves and each other, drowning babies, etc. Goolrick's note says it was inspired by a nonfiction book called Wisconsin Death Trip that contained similar events during this time period, the beginning of the 20th century. That actually sounds fairly intriguing, but sprinkled throughout this novel, it just added to the general oddness. And I'm just not that into oddness in my fiction. But do check out other reviews online, most of them are great. I seem to be in the minority.