Lust. Greed. Greed. Lust. Despair. Redemption. These are the themes of A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. The book opens during a Wisconsin winter in the early 1900s. Catherine Land has responded to a personal ad placed in the newspaper by wealthy business man Ralph Truitt who is looking for "a reliable wife". Catherine travels by train to meet him and shortly thereafter they are married. From the very beginning, the reader is aware that Catherine's intentions are not pure and that she is planning to kill Ralph for his fortune. Little does Catherine know that Ralph has plans of his own...
I don't want to reveal the finer plot points too much (the first big surprise comes about mid way through the book) so I'll stay away from that. I do want to say I really disliked the book for about the first three quarters of it. There is a TON of sex. I'm no prude, but after a while it felt like Mr. Goolrick was living out all his midlife male fantasies through middle aged Ralph Truitt who gets to sleep with young Catherine every night. Afterwhile I felt like "Another sex scene? Are you kidding me?!?!" I actually considered going back and counting how many pages did not have sex or a reference to sex in them. There weren't many.
The characters are not very likable either. Catherine is a liar, a prostitute, and a would be killer. Ralph is a wife beater and a child abuser. Ralph's son Antonio (who plays a central role later in the book) is an alcoholic, drug abusing, narcissistic pleasure seeker. There's not much to like there.
Finally, in about the last quarter of the book, Catherine has a change of heart. She has spent her life changing her identity and telling lies. She realizes that she has no idea who she truly is. She finally decides to settle into life with Ralph and enjoy the company of another human being. And she likes it. When Catherine starts transforming, I started to like the book a little more...just a little.
In the end, I can't say I recommend it. It wasn't a terrible book. There were some great descriptive scenes (even ones not about sex---shocking!) that give me some hope that the author has the potential to turn out some better novels in the future. I just wasn't thrilled with this book. There are plenty of other superior choices on a library's shelves waiting to be read instead.