A Reliable Wife – Review

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A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Age: Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: Chicago

I normally try to write my own synopsis of the books I review, but the back cover summary is pretty much the most concise version of what I would want to say about this book.

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 herself a wealthy widow. What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own.

What I enjoyed about this book was the heavy set atmosphere of mistrust, paranoia, and isolation set in the early 1900s Chicago. The weather,  the city and the environment directly reflects the moods of the characters as well as their developments throughout the story. I felt that the primary characters; Ralph and Catherine, were well developed. Each went on a personal journey of self discovery although the journey wasn’t easy being paved with regrets and misfortune.  Catherine’s journey and transformation was particularly very subtle, simple and honest.

What bothered me about the book was the crazed, hyper libidos and obsession with sex that filled needless pages of the book. The characters seemed more driven by their physical needs than emotional all the time. It really set a strange mood to the novel. I also found Catherine’s involvement with Antonio to be annoying, particularly her dependence on his approval. Antonio himself is a character that stayed stagnant throughout the entire novel and I really could have done without being introduced to a character such as his.

It took me a while to get into the book (the beginning really reminded me of the movie Original Sin with Angelina Jolie & Antonio Banderas). In the movie, Antonio brings a woman to his city to be his wife, your basic mail-order bride situation, based on a series of correspondence with a stranger. Upon Angelina’s arrival, he figures out that the woman in the photo is not the woman getting off the ship…there are a few more similarities between the storylines, more in character personalities than in plot.

A Reliable Wife is a good rainy day book, and is a relatively quick read.

A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick
Algonquin Books, 2009
ISBN 9781565129771
291 pages
Source: Pubisher
Book 16 of 2011
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Find this book at your local library
A reliable wife : a novel
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