- Books, Literature, and Writing
A Reliable Wife: A book review
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
291 pgs, 2009 Algonquin Books
overall rating 33/35
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
You know that a book was utterly fantastic when your only complaint is that it was just too perfect. We all know that perfect person: The prom queen in high school with her perfect hair, perfect boyfriend, perfect teeth. You couldn't stop looking at her, yet you found yourself annoyed by her the same. Or, look at Tom Brady. Perfect looks, enormous bank account, super model wife, unparalleled success. He’s so perfect, sometimes you just hate him. This is how I view A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick.
Every word, every phrase, every inflection: All perfectly planned out, all perfectly played out and used. No wasted words. No wasted scenes. No wasted anything. If you were college writing professor looking for a novel to show your students how to write the perfect novel, A Reliable Wife would be it. The book, with an emotionally charged plot, often falls flat on the emotional scale—which could be the result of an overly sanitized writing process. But, again, this is a minor complaint. While I like it when my story have a few moles and a few stray hairs, I also like a story that sucks you in and doesn't let you out of it’s vacuum even after the book is back on your bookshelf (or paid forward to a book loving friend).
What A Reliable Wife may lack in raw emotion, it more than makes up for with a compelling, gripping story line with realistically complex characters. While his is a debut novel, Goolrick is no virgin to the literature scene. It’s no surprise that Goolrick is primarily a non fiction author—this book, with its matter-of-fact exposition, its grandiose descriptions and its heart wrenching story line, often leaves the reader believing that they are reading about actual events and real people.
The premise is simple:
Commencing in Wisconsin in the dead of Winter in 1907 and journeying through to the early Spring of 1908, , Ralph Truitt of Truitt, Wisconsin has placed an ad in a newspaper stating simply:
COUNTRY BUSINESSMAN SEEKS
COMPELLED BY PRACTICAL,
NOT ROMANTIC REASONS.
REPLY BY LETTER
RALPH TRUITT, TRUITT, WISCONSIN.
This brings Catherine Land, a woman with secrets and motives of her own. They meet at a train station and, while there is no love shared between them, there is affection, security and even a kind of trust. Land is eventually coaxed into travelling to St. Louis to seek and return his estranged son, Antonio.
What transpires is a journey of deceit, of romance, of violence and of surprise. Goolrick deftly reveals each twist in a realistic, compelling and understated style keeping the reader guessing through the almost 300 page novel. You'll think you'll have things figured out and then Goolrick pulls the rug out from under your feet.
As stated in the closing chapters of the book, A Reliable Wife is: “Just a story about how the bitter cold gets into your bones and never leaves you, of how memories get into your heart and never leave you alone, of the pain and the bitterness of what happens to you when you’re small and have no defenses but still know evil when it happens, of secrets about evil you have no one to tell, of the life you live in secret, knowing your own pain and the pain of others but helpless to do anything other than the things you do, and the end it all comes to.”
A Reliable Wife is one of the best books I have read in a long time and has a re readability that is not common in modern novels. According the IMDB, the film has been optioned for a film to be released in 2015. I look forward to seeing how this story translates to the big screen. But, read the book first.
Writing/Editing Quality: 10/10
Entertainment quality: 20/20
Total Rating: 33/35