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
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.