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A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Title:  A Reliable Wife

Author:  Robert Goolrick

No. of Pages:  291

First Released:  2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “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.”

Comments and Critique:  Warning – major gushing is about to commence.  A Reliable Wife is a fascinating study of redemption and forgiveness that weaves a spell around a reader.  With the murders occurring in town, there are dark and mysterious underpinings that keep a reader on the edge of uncomfortableness, concerned for the fate of all.  Mr. Goolrick writes in such a way that the reader is literally at the scene, watching the action unfold before his or her eyes.  His words require savoring and slow reading.  One should not and cannot skim this book.  Its very deliberateness allows the audience to gain a depth and insight into each character that is often lacking in literature these days.  It is a spellbinding combination that had me immersed from the very first page.

In addition to the idea of redemption and forgiveness, A Reliable Wife draws upon a few other interesting dynamics that could cause much debate among readers.  There is a remarkable dynamic between love and power.  Can one exist without the other or are they forever bound together?  You see this struggle between each of the characters – Truitt with Emilia, Tony with Catherine, and Catherine with Truitt.  Each handles this struggle differently, causing the reader to doubt if there are any correct answers.  There is also a hint of the nature versus nurture debate that one could explore forever, given the similar and not-so-similar backgrounds and personalities that exist throughout the novel.  In other words, for those who love to ponder life’s sociological mysteries, there is plenty of fodder in A Reliable Wife.

Speaking of personalities, one of the best parts of the book are its personalities.  They are all flawed and easily disliked but extremely sympathetic because they are real.  Their flaws make them more realistic, so that while a reader may not be able to understand their background, he or she can understand each person’s emotions and internal crises they each face.  Tragedy brings them together, and tragedy is, in its own way, the makings of their unique characteristics.  Watching each character handle their personal tragedies garners the reader more insight into their personalities, while  making them more sympathetic.

If you can’t tell by now, I loved this book.  It was an amazing piece of historical fiction in the guise of psychological thriller with an attention to detail that left me breathless.  Mr. Goolrick has a way of making me want to throw away my jeans and slip into long skirts and petticoats.  I could practically feel the swish of the material against my legs.  Add to that my utter fascination with Ralph and Catherine, what made them act and react and what secrets they were hiding, and I was drawn to this book like a moth to a flame.  In case that wasn’t enough, there is enough tension that kept my stomach fluttering – the dreaded blue bottle, the constant mention of people losing their minds and murdering others for no apparent reason – all of this equals a book that will appeal to a wide audience.  Male or female, young or old – each person will be attracted to and take away a different message, but they will all enjoy it.  Yes, A Reliable Wife is that good.

This book meets the requirements of the What’s In a Name Challenge for Title.  For the FTC, I purchased this with my own money and would gladly do it again. 

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