#234 ~ A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Published by: Algonquin Books

Published on: March 2009

Page Count: 291

Genre: Historical Fiction / Gothic Fiction

For Consideration: graphic sexuality

Format: paperback review copy from the publisher

Availability: hardcover, paperback, eBook, audio

My Review

Ralph Truitt, a man who is the virtual king of his small Wisconsin town, put an ad in the the paper looking for a “reliable wife.”  Although he has all of the wealth and power he could ever need, he can’t get away from his past.  He spent many years celibate and sober in hopes of making right the mistakes he made with the wife of his youth and their children.  Ralph, now at a distinguished age, wants to try a different tactic.  For that, he needs an honest, simple wife.  Catherine Land answers Ralph’s ad for her own reasons.  She uses deceit to get what she wants, believing that the transition from living in 1904’s Chicago to Ralph’s rural community worth the sacrifice to satisfy her needs and fulfill her fantasies.  Despite the best laid plans, things do not go as planned for Ralph or Catherine.  They both find that when you use someone to reach your own ends, things get messy.

A Reliable Wife is a book that requires discussion.  There are so many themes and topics ripe for conversation and debate.Thankfully I have been able to participate in a thoughtful Twitter book club as well talk about it in more depth with a friend.  I think I could be happy spending hours talking about the interplay between Ralph, Catherine, and Tony, the distinction between nature and nurture, and the role of weather, gardens, and dark sexuality.  As much as I want to dig down deep into every little crevice, the story is enjoyable and accessible at the surface level.

I couldn’t have been more than two chapters into A Reliable Wife when I wondered where it had been all my life.   I was drawn into the characters immediately and my interest never let up for a moment.  The writing was beautiful throughout and I consider its conclusion to be among the best I’ve read.  I relished every bit of this novel, finishing it with a sense of satisfaction that can only come from the knowledge that I will read it again many times over.

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  • At 2010.02.11 00:02, Kathy R (Bermudaonion) said:

    Wow, a book that requires discussion that you wonder where it’s been all your life sounds marvelous!

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    • At 2010.02.11 00:28, Zia said:

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it. I just picked this up a few days ago myself.

      • At 2010.02.11 07:49, Sandy said:

        I was even at Borders the other day, and they had this book displayed at the register. I made some comment about it, and the salesperson started gushing all over. I recently won a SIGNED COPY (!) from Rebecca, but I’m going to donate it to the Adult Literacy League silent auction. Looks like I’m going to have to buy it back!

        • At 2010.02.11 09:21, Mari (Bookworm with a View) said:

          Sounds like you really liked this book. The MMBC discussed this online. Feel free to join the conversation if you are interested in talking about this one a little more.

          I still think about this book, I liked it but it made me feel uncomfortable a lot.


          • At 2010.02.11 09:53, Stephanie said:

            I knew after reading your last post on this book that it is something I need to read! Thanks for the great review.

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            • At 2010.02.11 10:29, Melissa @ Melissa's Booskhelf said:

              I’m glad you enjoyed it! It definitely didn’t work for me at all, but I know a lot of people out there really love this book.

              • At 2010.02.11 10:32, Jennifer (Crazy-for-Books) said:

                I have this in my TBR and am really looking forward to it! Your review is enticing me to pick it up sooner rather than later!!! Thanks for sharing!

                • At 2010.02.11 10:48, Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) said:

                  sounds like a good book…this book came unsolicted to me. I should probably read it if its this good.

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                  • At 2010.02.11 14:33, Lisa said:

                    I really enjoyed this one, too. There was a lot to discuss–I read it on my own and so wished I had had someone to talk about it with.

                    • At 2010.02.11 15:09, Kathleen said:

                      This sounds like a GREAT one for my book club!

                      • At 2010.02.11 16:40, Ti said:

                        I remember you gushing about this one when you first started it. I haven’t read it yet! Now that’s it out in PB I will probably pick it up soon.

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                        • At 2010.02.11 18:37, Jo-Jo said:

                          This one caught my eye quite some time ago and I still haven’t had a chance to read it…hopefully soon! Thanks for the review.

                          • At 2010.02.12 00:43, Julie said:

                            Like Lisa (above noter) I also wish I had someone to discuss this with. I really enjoyed this book and think a discussion of it would be great! I’m glad you enjoyed it so much too!

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                            • At 2010.02.12 08:30, Literate Housewife said:

                              For all of you who would like to discuss A Reliable Wife further, here is the link to Manic Mommies Book Club: http://manicmommiesbookclub.blogspot.com/2009/08/mmbc7-reliable-wife-discussion-begins.html. I would also be happy to do another Twitter book club about the book. Just let me know and I’ll see if I can get something scheduled.

                              • At 2010.02.12 12:54, carol said:

                                I’ve had this on my to-read list for a while. Looks like I need to move it up.

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                                • At 2010.02.12 14:00, Kristi said:

                                  With such a gushing review, I can’t help but want to pick this up right away!

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                                  • At 2010.02.12 16:23, lauren said:


                                    Thanks for the shout out! Yes, there is SO much more that I want to discuss with you and others about this book. I feel that I could almost go back in a few months and re-read it, and notice totally different things. It is excellent for a book club selection, but let them know that this novel does discuss sex (some might feel uncomfortable). I, too, thought it was a little bit uncomfortable until I started to question what the characters were using sex for…was it become a person they are not? Because they had no choice? To feel better about themselves? Solely for pleasure? Jennifer & I spoke, and it’s almost as if sex and deceit could both be their own characters in this book! It was hard to put the book down…happy reading!

                                    • At 2010.02.19 18:08, Emily said:

                                      I requested this book from the library after I read your review, and I’m STILL waiting for a copy! I’ve decided that it’s because of your review, so way to go! 🙂

                                      • At 2010.03.06 10:56, Andi said:

                                        Yay! I’m glad someone besides me liked this book. The sex got old, but I liked the rest.

                                        • […] The Literate Housewife Review […]

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