A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick got a lot of attention on book blogs this spring. It’s a dark but fiery book about a love triangle – Ralph, a lonely, rich man in rural Wisconsin; Tony, the son he abused as a child; and Catherine, a mysterious woman who answers Ralph’s ad looking for “a reliable wife”. Without spoiling anything more – A Reliable Wife is, at its core, about love, passion and loyalty, and how these three can drive people to extreme measures.
I didn’t love this book. I had read a lot about the twists and turns, the suspense and the intrigue, and while that was all true, there were some things I just didn’t like about it. Goolrick’s writing is descriptive and dramatic, but the narration became repetitive and inconsistent at times. Characters would undergo total transformations within a page or two, which was jarring. Ralph and Tony were obsessed with sex, to the point where it got boring to read about it. The whole book took place over about 9 months, but it feltlike years had passed based on the descriptions in the book of monotony and repetition as well as the character development. It all just seemed inconsistent.
I enjoyed some of the historical background – the descriptions of St. Louis and Wisconsin at the turn of the century, as well as the period detail. And I found it to be a compelling read, while I was in the midst of it. I wanted to know what would happen next and I was eager to pick the book up whenever I could. But in the end, it was unsatisfying. I found it unnecessarily dramatic – many reviews have used the word “heavy-handed” – and that it ultimately didn’t make a lot of sense.
Many others really enjoyed this book, so I may not be in the majority on this one. (Wouldn’t be the first time!!)
Here are some reviews I found helpful:
Life Is Too Short To Read Bad Books - she didn’t love it
Bookworm with a View – check out the Q&A with the author
A Girl Walks Into A Bookstore - she didn’t love it
S. Krishna’s Books – she was a big fan
My Friend Amy’s Books – she found it “brilliant”
Devourer of Books – she called it “fantastic”