Monday, May 20, 2013

Reliable Wife: Book Review

Reliable Wife
By Robert Goolrick

I have so many emotions after reading Reliable Wife.   I did not read the synopsis of the novel. All I knew was that it took place in Wisconsin somewhere and takes place in the past. I did not expect this kind of novel.

The story is bleak and Gothic in writing style, there is sexual content, but not what you would expect. It was not graphic. If you like to read a book that is literary than this may be the book for you. It has all the things you learned in high school English class. There are many hidden meanings, and literary symbols, and metaphors, etc.

This is a awesome book for a book club that will keep the readers discussing for weeks, and haunting you for days. I think many readers, and book bloggers do have mixed feelings about Reliable Wife.

This is not the type of book to read quickly, you must slowly savor it.

If you are down in the dumps this novel is depressing and not up lifting at all until the end.  I would recommend this to everyone at some point but not if you are having a bad week.  After re-reading and seeing the author talk I appreciated the novel.

The book is many things, it is redemption, forgiveness,suffering, grief, and hope.  haunting, Gothic, and Psychological thriller, and a bit of romance and murder. It is not one set genre.

What I loved the most is it is a fresh new voice, and a different kind of novel that I have ever experienced. It read like a movie in my head. 

Reliable Wife is set in Wisconsin in 1907. It opens with Ralph, a rich self made man. He employs everyone in his town. The town is named after him. He has a terrible upbringing. He then marries a woman, and has one child that dies of influenza. He loves his child very much.

He treats his wife like gods gift, and indulges her at every whim. What ever she wants she gets until he finds out she is having a affair.

She is pregnant and takes out his anger on his son. He regrets this for years, and has guilt that becomes his downfall. After 20 yrs. he searches out for a mail order bride.


The mail order bride turns out to be Catherine, she is not who she says she is. The picture she originally sends him is not her. He is looking for a plain woman, honest and a simple woman. What he gets is a beautiful woman with beautiful clothes, and luxuries instead.

Already we know she is a liar, and dishonest and deceitful, and already we see trouble from the start before it even begins.

Both of them want something from each other. Catherine wants a rich, money bag to eventually murder, where she can get his millions.

Ralph feels very guilty for years how he treated his son, Antonio. He wants Catherine to help him get his son back. But, all his son wants is for Catherine and him to plot the murder of Ralph.

What I found interesting about the character Ralph is, he is a powerful and strong business man of the town, and he allows Catherine to take over, as caretaker and wife.

He knows she is poisoning him with Arsenic, and does nothing. Do you think he feels he deserves to be poisoned because of the treatment of his son? That seems so out of character for most ordinary people. I found this interesting and out of character. Do you think he felt he deserved it that is why he did nothing, and let her take control?

It sounds like he gave up, felt so profoundly guilty, he felt relief that someone was killing him, and he was allowing her to be in control of his life.... Or do you think that loneliness played the part. He was afraid to die a lonely old man, know that someone was at his side he did not have to fear he would die alone.

But Antonio, is self destructive and destroys himself. Where Catherine and Ralph are able to find something in each other. By the end they both find redemption and love for each other.

I loved the setting of the novel, Wisconsin. Wisconsin was character. The time period, and the desolate, cold wintery days that were set in the novel, set the feel, and tension, and the loneliness of each of the characters. By the end of the story it is almost spring time and both of the characters are set free and are able to forgive each other.

I loved everything about this novel. I am sorry I read this novel so quickly, I would have loved to read it slower to savoir the literary style of Reliable Wife. I am hoping my other book club would like to read, but I am afraid of their reaction. They are not serious readers and that is what kind of novel this is. I am looking forward to reading his next one, Heading Out To Wonderful.

I was given this novel by the author. Thank you for the galley.  You can find more info. about Reliable Wife here.  Also at the publisher's website for book clubs here

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