Summary: Rural Wisconsin, 1909. 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. -- Algonquin Books
I have been reading so many incredible reviews about A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick that I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. I absolutely devoured this book and completely agree with what all the critics are saying -- A RELIABLE WIFE is an amazing book. I highly recommend this novel and suggest you add it to your must-read list.
When I first read the book description for A RELIABLE WIFE, I thought it sounded intriguing. A wealthy widower has purchased an ad looking for "a reliable wife." The book begins with him impatiently waiting at a train station for his future wife to arrive. He is shocked when a beautiful woman gets off the train because she doesn't match the picture of the "plain" woman he was expecting. I immediately knew that Catherine wasn't the woman she was pretending to be and had a very questionable past -- she actually was planning on killing her new husband and taking all his money. Catherine's actions were a big indication to me that things in this story might be a little more complex than they first appeared. And, it was the first sign that this book would be filled with many twists and turns.
I absolutely love how this story unfolded! I felt as if I was always discovering something new about these incredibly complex characters. What I found odd about this book was that I didn't actually like any of the characters, yet their lives and actions had me completely mesmerized -- I usually enjoy books more when I can relate to the characters. All of the main characters were coping with a great deal of baggage, and as a result, were very damaged and flawed. I'm sure I was attracted to their stories because they were so sordid, but I have to admit that I found them fascinating.
A RELIABLE WIFE is Robert Goolrick's first novel and I have to say that it's a very powerful debut. I cannot rave enough about this book -- it's riveting. Mr. Goolrick is an extremely gifted writer, and I was blown away by the way he told this story. I'm not exactly sure how to describe his writing style, but to say it's almost understated. Every word was carefully chosen for a reason and to evoke a particular feeling. His descriptions of the Wisconsin countryside and the town's inhabitants are just perfect -- I could visualize the desolate, snow-covered countryside and even understand how some of the people in this town went mad. This book would without a doubt make an incredible movie, and I wasn't surprised that the film rights to A RELIABLE WIFE have already been purchased by Columbia.
A RELIABLE WIFE should be on your book club's list of books to read because it would make a fantastic discussion book. It has already been selected as one of The April 2009 Indie Next List Great Reads. Just last week, Reading Group Guides blog had a terrific guest post written by three librarians about A RELIABLE WIFE. I especially enjoyed reading their most talked about discussion questions at the end of the essay. The themes in this book aren't unique to this story, but they are told with an entirely new slant. Some of the topics your club might discuss are lies, deceit, loneliness, forgiveness, madness, violence, and revenge. You could probably just talk about the psyche of the characters for an entire evening. This book really is that interesting.
A RELIABLE WIFE comes out on March 31st. You might just want to pre-order it to make sure you have it right away! A big thanks to Algonquin Books for sending me an ARC to review.