Robert Goolrick, if you are reading this I want to shake your hand. Seldom do I come across novels that blow my mind the way A Reliable Wife did.
Ralph Truitt, tired of being alone and missing the companionship of a woman puts together an advertisement looking for a wife. Catherine Land, a woman with a sordid past, sees a way to change her identity and answers the advertisement. Ralph has letters, a photo, and tons of hope for the woman coming to Wisconsin be his wife. Catherine’s train finally arrives and much to Ralph’s dismay she is not the woman in his photo. He tells her,
“This begins in a lie. I want you to know I know that.”
Ralph has no idea who this woman is and is deeply hurt and embarrassed at what is transpiring. On the way to his house a deer crosses the road startling the horses on their carriage. Ralph is thrown from the carriage and suffers a head wound. Catherine gets Ralph back to his house and meets his two servants Mr. and Mrs. Larsen. Mrs. Larsen and Catherine treat Ralph, sew his wound up, and try to get him to keep moving in case of a concussion. Ralph winds up taking a turn for the worse, contracting a fever that evening. Catherine and Mrs. Larsen begin the long process of nursing Ralph back to health. All the while Catherine keeps thinking that she must keep Ralph alive, that it’s too early for him to die, that she hasn’t done it yet. The reader comes to find out that Catherine is planning on murdering Ralph and taking all of his money.
“She would have her lover’s beauty and her own, and she would have Ralph’s money, and surely the two together would be enough. That at least was the plan. She would marry Ralph Truitt, and then, one day, almost imperceptibly he would begin to grow old and die. And then, one day not long after, he would be dead and she would have it all.”
Ralph survives his illness with the help of Catherine and Mrs. Larsen. Once on the mend he tells Catherine of his own sordid past, including his lustful adolescence, his first wife and the son she bore that wound up not being his. The two marry and Ralph is able to begin quenching his sexual desires. Ralph gives Catherine everything that she asks for in return for her going to St. Louis to bring back his long-lost son.
The above is not even a quarter of the storyline yet it is all I can reveal without spoiling the end of the novel. This novel is incredible. The story is crazy; it’s filled with blackmail, murder, lies, betrayal, love, deceit, and so much more. Goolrick wrote a crazy story and he wrote it extremely well. As I said above, seldom do I find books that blow my mind. When I say blow my mind I mean books that I finish and have to just sit and reflect on. In the case of A Reliable Wife I was just disturbed, impressed, and in awe of the story. I cannot recommend this book enough.
My one warning I must mention is this book has tons of sexual references and innuendos. The main characters have pasts that are heavily influenced by their sexual desires and experiences. This is definitely a book for more mature readers.
5 out of 5 Stars