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.
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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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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jsglaister, July 9, 2009 (view all comments by jsglaister)
I found this book totally engrossing. As I read, I was surprised by the turn of events over and over again. I highly recommend it to those individuals who want a book that they cannot put down. You will not be disappointed.
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saraneil, June 3, 2009 (view all comments by saraneil)
I was surprised Powell's backed this book so much. Did anybody in the store read it? I can appreciate that the book's style is deliberate, but that doesn't make the writing any less sophomoric. This is a sow's ear pretending to be a silk purse if I've ever slogged through the pages of one -- it's entirely set up like literary fiction, then when you get 50 pages in you realize your fourth grade cousin could have written it. And if they had, you'd feel rather sorry for them for having squandered their talent.
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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.
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 Publishers Weekly,
"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.)
by Sandra Brown,
"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."
by Sara Gruen,
"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."
by Christian Science Monitor,
"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."
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.
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