Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review: A Reliable Wife - Richard Goolrick

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. - Publishers Weekly
The back of the book drew me in immediately as well as the first chapters of the book.  I liked the premise - lonely man searches for wife via a classified ad - which isn't as common place today. Although you could say that the classified ad in the local newspaper was the 19th century profile. As I continued to read the book, I was drawn in by the characters and how they interacted with each other.  I guessed one plot twist before it happened, but didn't see how the ending worked out.  The writing definitely transported me to the time period - 19th century Midwest small town and big city. Reading the interview questions with the author afterword helped me understand more of his inspiration and thought process of  bringing together these characters into an intriguing story.  

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review. I also liked this book even though...I didn't like any of the characters :)

    Here is my review of this book: