Title: A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick
Length: 291 pages (hardcover)
Two Sentence Summary: Lonely widower Ralph Truitt places an add for a “reliable wife” to join him in Wisconsin. Catherine Land answers the ad, but turns out neither one gets what they expected.
Two Sentence Review: The writing style of this book annoyed me, as did the fact that the characters seemed entirely motivated by their carnal desires. But don’t necessarily listen to me because lots of people love this book.
Long Summary: Ralph Truitt is a lonely guy who lives in rural Wisconsin. Tired of being lonely, he places an add for a “reliable wife” to join him in all his riches. Catherine Land answers the ad, calling herself “a simple, honest woman.”
Pretty soon we learn Catherine has other plans than to marry Ralph and live our her days in the country. She’s going to marry him, then slowly kill him using arsenic so she can steal all his money and live an independent and wealthy life. As the book goes along, Ralph and Catherine realize their deep passion for each other and Catherine’s choices become much more complicated.
Long Review: So, I didn’t like this book. Everyone else did, and has been writing glowing reviews of it, but I just didn’t enjoy it.
I think what got to me most of all was the writing style. Goolrick has this style that seems almost pushy, like he doesn’t let his character’s actions speak for themselves and instead is constantly narrating what the character is thinking or what you as a reader should be thinking about what is going on. Unfortunately, I returned this book to the library already, so the only quote I can show you is one from the beginning of the book which isn’t a great example:
He had meant to be a good man, he was not a bad man. He had taught himself not to want, after his first wanting and losing. Now he wanted something, and his desire startled and enraged him.
Dressing in his house before he came to the train station, Ralph had caught sight of his face in one of the mirrors. The sight had shocked him. Shocking to see what grief and condescension had done to his face. So many years of hatred and rage and regret.
There’s nothing interesting about those two paragraphs. I mean, I sort of want to know more about what happened to Ralph, but I didn’t have to do anything to know what is motivating him because Goolrick already told me. I didn’t get to explore his character for myself, I just got told what to think. The whole book goes on like this and, frankly, I got bored with it after about 45 pages.
But I persevered! There was a promised plot twist near the ending that was supposed to be so surprising I hoped it would turn the book around. And I wanted to start liking Ralph and Catherine, since clearly they found something to like in each other. But I thought Catherine was selfish, Ralph was a push-over, and I just didn’t get behind their romance at all.
The plot twist, although a little unexpected, wasn’t earth shattering or anything. It certainly makes the book more complicated, but it just wasn’t good enough to redeem the cast of unlikeable characters and frustrating writing style.
But I’m not the only person who has read this book. Plenty of other reviewers have glowing things to say and, in fact, don’t find his writing annoying at all. For example:
- A Bookworm’s World — “The story itself is captivating, but it is the language that mesmerized me. Goolrick’s writing is raw and powerful. Ralph’s discourse on his wants and desires are simply beautiful. Catherine’s disquisition on her life, desires and how she came to be what she is, is brutal in it’s honesty.”
- My Friend Amy — “It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to read a book in one day, but I completely devoured this one. When I finished the book, I closed it and thought, ‘that was amazing.’ But after letting it sit in my head for awhile, I’ve to the conclusion that no it wasn’t amazing, it was brilliant.”
- S. Krishna’s Books — “This is definitely one of the hardest books I’ve ever had to review because I can’t exactly pinpoint why I enjoyed it so thoroughly. I can only say that I absolutely loved it”
So, don’t take my word for it. Read those reviews, along with the others listed at the bottom of this post, and then make up your mind whether I’m the weird one for disliking this book or whether everyone else is just crazy 🙂
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!