Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Julie's Review: A Reliable Wife

Summary: 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. ~amazon.com

Review: I've heard a lot about A Reliable Wife, both good and bad; so when a friend handed it to me, I knew I'd read it. Of course, another friend has been picking books for me to read from my TBR pile and she had just finished it. From other reviews it seems like either you loved it or you hated it. I'm neither; I'm indifferent.

There were very good aspects to the book and things that I didn't need to read about every other page; like Ralph's obsession with sex. Now, I do understand why he was obsessed with it, but I got it after the explanation the third time. I felt like it was a distraction from what was really going on. Ralph was a man trying to atone for his sins during childhood and young adulthood. He thought by abstaining from anything physical for 20 years would make him better, pure. Frankly, all it made him was a little crazy. It was all he could think about and that's never a good thing.

Enter Catherine Land, his mail order bride. Catherine starts out her story telling Ralph a lie. You see she said she was a plain, honest women; well she is neither. Catherine has her own plan. She wants to kill Ralph, take his money and live a life of splendor with her lover.

Little do either of them know that either one has plans of their own, which of course is where the story gets good. Ralph sends Catherine to St. Louis to look for his long-lost illegitimate son Antonio or Andy. With the help of private investigators, he is located and Catherine goes to him to convince him to come home. His dad is sorry for all the wrong in the past and wants to make amends. As you can guess, that doesn't go real well. She returns home to Wisconsin and starts to unravel her plan to slowly kill Ralph.

As with most books, I won't spoil it for you. I will say that I did like the ending of the book, I found it rewarding for both characters. I like how they both were transformed by love and saved by love, especially when they least expected it. It was a lot like a business deal at first, that ended up being much more than either expected.

I didn't love or hate this book. Would I recommend it to someone? Um, not sure. I guess if they can get through the first part of the book then yes. I have to say I almost put it down because all the talk of sex was a bit much. I felt at times that I was reading porn and well I've never done that before. I'm glad I did finish it though, because sometimes endings are much better than beginnings.

Final Take: 3.25/5



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