Usually when I finish reading a book, especially one that I've anticipated for a while, I come away with a pretty definite understand of how I feel about that book. When A RELIABLE WIFE made it's rounds on the blogs when it first came out in 2009, it instantly became, for me, a book I must read. Most of the reviews I read were favorable, which only made me want to read it more. But having now read it, I have mixed emotions about the book and that surprises me. Just in case you aren't familiar with the book, here's a brief synopsis (without spoilers).
Ralph Truitt, a successful and lonely widower living in the Wisconsin countryside in 1907, is tired of living alone after twenty years and puts a personal ad in a Chicago newspaper for 'A Reliable Wife'. He's not necessarily looking for love but companionship and possibly children in the future. His wishes are made very clear.
Catherine Land is the woman who answers the ad, looking for a new beginning in a place she's never been and hopeful that things will work out. Catherine is willing to go along with Truitt's objective, however, she has plans of her own. It becomes clear early on that she isn't who she says she is and she doesn't have Truitt's best interests at heart.
What follows is a story about trust, loyalty, love, and at the center of everything - lust. The story takes place in about a year's time and brings out the most basic of human desires: to live a happy and contented life.
What I noticed right away in treading this book was Gookrick's unique writing style. It is direct and is told almost as if someone is standing there telling you their thoughts, at times, repeating certain lines to ensure you got their message. The story takes off immediately and the cold Wisconsin winter setting was perfectly described so that I could almost feel the winter's cold on my face.
I didn't think I was going to like Ralph Truitt at the very beginning, but it didn't take long for me to change my mind. He was a likable and realistic character, as was most all of the supporting characters. However, right away, I was leery of Catherine and her motives.
The story itself was an original one and considering the era in which it was based, I thought it was believable. Shortly after Ralph and Catherine are married, Ralph insists Catherine help him bring his long lost son home to Wisconsin. He hasn't seen the boy since he was a teenager but has had the famed Pinkerton Agency looking for him for many years. Catherine reluctantly agrees to travel to St. Louis to meet with the now grown man to encourage him to come home with her. That's when things really get intense. Nothing is as it seems and the story becomes riveting at that point. I was fascinated by what was happening and had to keep reading. I was pleased with the ending and I did feel a sense of relief once I was finished. I must say that it was a strange story with many twists and turns but I felt satisfied with the outcome and I'm glad to have read it.
That said, when people ask me what I thought of it, I still have trouble putting my finger on it. I can't say I loved it, although there were aspects about the story that kept me intrigued. Still other times though, I ask myself, What was the point of all of that? So you see, I'm still not quite sure how I really feel about it. I will just say, I was pleased with this uniquely strange story about a man looking for a woman to share his life.
Have you read this book? And did you have similar feelings about it or is it just me? I'd love to hear your thoughts. I do believe that this book is not for everyone. It has some racy parts that might make you blush if you're sensitive about talking about sex. As a whole, I would recommend this book but not to everyone.
Author: Robert Goolrick
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: Paperback January 2010
Rating: 3 and a half Stars - I think!