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A Reliable Wife

by

A Reliable Wife Cover

 

Staff Pick

Come a day, you might get sick of hearing about A Reliable Wife — so many people will have read it and raved to you about it. Here's some preventative medicine: read it first. Seduction, marriage, money, sex, drugs, murder... when Catherine Land arrives in Wisconsin on a snowy day in 1907, we know she's an imposter — but does her husband-to-be? Robert Goolrick has written a novel that you'll want to devour in a single sitting. Simultaneously, you'll want to luxuriate in its drama as long as possible. Whatever you decide, there's too much pleasure in these pages to leave to your friends.
Recommended by Dave, Powells.com

Frank advertises for a "mail-order bride," and Catherine accepts. She arrives in Wisconsin during a blizzard, which sets the initial tone for the chilly interaction between them. They both have sinister, unexpressed plans for each other. Heavy on themes of sex, greed, and self-interest, The Reliable Wife morphs into a pseudo love story. Ralph suffers at Catherine's hand, and she seems untouchable — but is she? Catherine undergoes a character change that is slow, believable, and satisfying.  I loved it!
Recommended by Dianah, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

Rural Wisconsin, 1907. 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.

With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.

Review:

"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

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... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"I was totally captivated by A Reliable Wife. Raw and lyrical at the same time, Robert Goolrick's wonderful novel grips the reader with its complex and beautiful story." Sandra Brown

Review:

"A Reliable Wife is a nearly forensic look at love in all its incarnations, with all its damages, deceptions, and obsessions, run through with points of light and pinned with ruinous truths....Astonishing, complex, beautifully written, and brilliant." Sara Gruen

Review:

"A Reliable Wife is eminently readable and should delight fans of old-fashioned Gothic romances....Goolrick is a solid wordsmith, and he handily manages the impressive task of making readers care about a woman bent on cold-blooded murder. And generating the proper Gothic ambience in Wisconsin is no mean feat." Christian Science Monitor

Synopsis:

In rural Wisconsin in 1909, Ralph Truitt 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.

Synopsis:

Maria Jameson is having an affaira passionate, lifechanging affair. She asks: Is it possible to love two men at once? Must this new romance mean an end to love with her husband? For answers, she reaches across the centuries to George Sand, the maverick French novelist who took many lovers. Immersing herself in the life of this revolutionary woman, Maria struggles with the choices women make and wonders if women in the nineteenth century might have been more free, in some ways, than their twenty-first-century counterparts.

Here, Rosalind Brackenbury creates a beautiful portrait of the ways in which women are connected across history. Two narratives delicately intertwinefollowing George through her affair with Frederic Chopin, following Maria through her affair with an Irish professorand bring us a novel that explores the personal and the historical, the demands of self and the mysteries of the heart. Sharply insightful, Becoming George Sand asks how we make our lives feel vibrant while still acknowledging the gifts of our pasts, and challenges our understanding of love in all its formssparkling and new, mature, rekindled, and renewed.

About the Author

Rosalind Brackenbury is the author of several novels, books of poetry, and short stories. She was born in London, England and has also lived in Scotland and France. She earned a history degree at Cambridge University, speaks French fluently, and has been a teacher, journalist and deck hand on a schooner.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 9 comments:

Elizabeth Petrovich, September 23, 2011 (view all comments by Elizabeth Petrovich)
A lie from the first moment they met....Ralph knew she wasn't the girl he had placed an ad for.

But Catherine never thought twice about how she lied to this man she was going to marry and how her destitute life before Ralph made her such a phony…but the lying didn't even faze her.

Her life before Ralph Truitt was always in her blood and on her mind...the men, the late nights, the lights, the music. But she had to not let it interfere with her life as she knew it now. She pretended that her previous life never existed even though she longed for her old life style. She had to "play" the part of a reliable, demure wife who had no history.

Neither had been honest with each other. Both Ralph and Catherine had plans after the marriage took place, but her plans were not the same plans Ralph had for her. Too bad they were not on the same page.

Deceit, unfaithfulness, poison, a life that was a lie, regret, unbelievable forgiveness, and a hint of mystery.....that is what A RELIABLE WIFE was made of. And.......an incredible writing style that will keep you reading way into the night, and one you will not want to put down.
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cariola119, November 29, 2009 (view all comments by cariola119)
I was up until 3 a.m. last night finishing this novel; I just couldn't sleep without knowing how it ended. It is definitely one of my best reads so far this year. Goolrick creates two intriguing and believable characters in Ralph and Catherine, the northern Wisconsin mogul and his mail-order wife, and he is especially adept at giving them interior lives. Although they initially seem like opposites, we soon learn that they share pasts flawed by misplaced love, tragedy, and self-loathing. Goolrick so successsfully sets forth these characters and their stories that the novel's twists and turns, while often unexpected, never seem unbelievable. The spareness of his style is a perfect complement to the empty white landscape of the Wisconsin winter and to the empty lives of Ralph, Catherine, and Antonio. But don't let this fool you: A Reliable Wife is hauntingly, lyrically beautiful as well. And beneath both the landscape and the seemingly empty lives lies the promise and dread of something more.

I was so affected by this novel that I probably won't be picking up anything new to read for a day or two. I'm just not ready to leave it yet.
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(10 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
OneMansView, November 28, 2009 (view all comments by OneMansView)
The presence of the past (3.75 *s)

Perhaps the high percentage here that can’t stand this book are used to efficient Internet purchases, be it books, bicycles, or wives. Products should come as advertised – if not, you return them and get a refund. Why should mail-order marriages be complicated – after all, one pays for a product? Its use, that is, a wife, should be straightforward.

Fortunately, the author has hardly succumbed to such simplistic nonsense when it comes to people. Middle-aged people have pasts, maybe very disturbing pasts, and inclinations and desires, maybe not well understood. Ralph Truitt, a rich businessman, now fifty-four, living in rural Wisconsin in 1907, is haunted by his past – a failed marriage to a very demanding Italian countess and his subsequent antipathy towards his son that resulted in his leaving as a teen-ager twenty years ago. But he knows that he cannot continue without the touch of a woman, regardless of his contention in his advertisement for “a reliable wife” that his interest is only “practical.” Catherine Land, thirty-four, dares not be the “honest” woman that she claimed to be in an answering letter to Ralph. She has lived by her wits as a prostitute for years. Survival for her trumps righteous honesty.

Revealed early is the depth of Ralph’s pain and Catherine’s agenda, her plan, which has little to do with a long-lasting marriage. Despite a great deal of awkwardness, the marriage is rapidly completed. But marriage becomes almost secondary as Ralph requests that Catherine go to St. Louis to retrieve his thirty-something son, Antonio. The remainder of the book involves the fatalistic playing out of Catherine meeting Antonio. The characters are not without puzzling traits, but even though grievous harm is inflicted by Catherine, there is core toughness, if not decency, that comes through in Ralph and Catherine. Catherine, despite her background, is surprising in her thirst for knowledge, as she literally hangs out in libraries for hours on end educating herself on numerous subjects.

Perhaps it can be agreed that the story at times is laboriously told, is overwrought, and is somewhat excessive. The dark and desolate Wisconsin winters add to a general tone of oppressiveness. Despite any such drawbacks or atmospherics, the book is redeemed by the halting change and growth of the two principals, by the extraordinary acceptance and forgiveness exhibited, and the evolution of emotions that fully deserve being regarded as love. Life is complicated, has to be lived to be figured out. Packaged, simple life is a fantasy.

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Product Details

ISBN:
9781565125964
Author:
Goolrick, Robert
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Author:
Brackenbury, Rosalind
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
FICTION / Historical
Subject:
Marriage
Subject:
History
Subject:
Family secrets
Subject:
Literary
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20090331
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
291
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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A Reliable Wife Used Hardcover
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Product details 291 pages Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - English 9781565125964 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Come a day, you might get sick of hearing about A Reliable Wife — so many people will have read it and raved to you about it. Here's some preventative medicine: read it first. Seduction, marriage, money, sex, drugs, murder... when Catherine Land arrives in Wisconsin on a snowy day in 1907, we know she's an imposter — but does her husband-to-be? Robert Goolrick has written a novel that you'll want to devour in a single sitting. Simultaneously, you'll want to luxuriate in its drama as long as possible. Whatever you decide, there's too much pleasure in these pages to leave to your friends.

"Staff Pick" by ,

Frank advertises for a "mail-order bride," and Catherine accepts. She arrives in Wisconsin during a blizzard, which sets the initial tone for the chilly interaction between them. They both have sinister, unexpressed plans for each other. Heavy on themes of sex, greed, and self-interest, The Reliable Wife morphs into a pseudo love story. Ralph suffers at Catherine's hand, and she seems untouchable — but is she? Catherine undergoes a character change that is slow, believable, and satisfying.  I loved it!

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "I was totally captivated by A Reliable Wife. Raw and lyrical at the same time, Robert Goolrick's wonderful novel grips the reader with its complex and beautiful story."
"Review" by , "A Reliable Wife is a nearly forensic look at love in all its incarnations, with all its damages, deceptions, and obsessions, run through with points of light and pinned with ruinous truths....Astonishing, complex, beautifully written, and brilliant."
"Review" by , "A Reliable Wife is eminently readable and should delight fans of old-fashioned Gothic romances....Goolrick is a solid wordsmith, and he handily manages the impressive task of making readers care about a woman bent on cold-blooded murder. And generating the proper Gothic ambience in Wisconsin is no mean feat."
"Synopsis" by , In rural Wisconsin in 1909, Ralph Truitt 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.
"Synopsis" by , Maria Jameson is having an affaira passionate, lifechanging affair. She asks: Is it possible to love two men at once? Must this new romance mean an end to love with her husband? For answers, she reaches across the centuries to George Sand, the maverick French novelist who took many lovers. Immersing herself in the life of this revolutionary woman, Maria struggles with the choices women make and wonders if women in the nineteenth century might have been more free, in some ways, than their twenty-first-century counterparts.

Here, Rosalind Brackenbury creates a beautiful portrait of the ways in which women are connected across history. Two narratives delicately intertwinefollowing George through her affair with Frederic Chopin, following Maria through her affair with an Irish professorand bring us a novel that explores the personal and the historical, the demands of self and the mysteries of the heart. Sharply insightful, Becoming George Sand asks how we make our lives feel vibrant while still acknowledging the gifts of our pasts, and challenges our understanding of love in all its formssparkling and new, mature, rekindled, and renewed.

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