Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Winter in Wisconsin, 1907 is a stark, sometimes brutal sometimes beautiful season, words that can also be used to describe this novel. Catherine Land, a beautiful, but no longer young woman, has answered a newspaper ad for "a reliable wife." Ralph Truitt, aging, rich, and lonely has selected Catherine from dozens of replies, based on her description of herself as a simple and honest woman and the picture she sent, which is actually of her much plainer cousin India. Despite her obvious deceptions, Ralph goes forward with his plan to marry her.

The reader soon learns that both parties have ulterior motives in mind - Catherine to inherit Ralph's money and live in luxury with her much younger lover, and Ralph to use Catherine to bring his long-estranged son back home and quench his eternal loneliness. The novel quietly twists and turns along these plot lines while each of them realizes that fulfilling their deepest wishes may not be what brings them satisfaction after all.

Goolrick's writing is hypnotizing - his rich visual descriptions drew me in until I could hear, smell, feel and see through the character's eyes. The book quietly seethes with passion and teeters on madness, examining the human condition in all of its capablilities. While it is a book to be savored, it is suspenseful enough to keep the pages turning until the end. I highly recommend this book to fans of gothic or romantic novels, or anyone who is a lover of language. Some readalike suggestions are:

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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