A Reliable Wife
Robert Goolrick (Adult Fiction)
Ralph Truitt was fifty-four years old, rich, and alone. He had been alone for twenty years and if the loneliness didn’t kill him, then another year in a bleak and barren Wisconsin winter might. So, he placed an ad in the Chicago paper: “Country businessman seeks reliable wife. Compelled by practical, not romantic reasons. Reply by letter.” He received many responses, but it was Catherine Land’s letter that he would choose. He had read it so many times, he knew it by heart. It was the first sentence that piqued his interest: “I am a simple honest woman.” But letters can be deceiving and all this “simple honest woman” wanted—ever wanted—was to acquire both love and money. Catherine would not live without some portion of both and Ralph Truitt was the ticket to her dream. With a beautiful face and a sympathetic backstory, she was well on her way of inheriting a vast fortune…unless Ralph Truitt had other plans.
A Reliable Wife is one of those books that if you don’t stick with it, you would simply give up on it and unapologetically mark it as “Did Not Finish”. With its foreboding and depressing backdrop of a 1907 Wisconsin winter, to its flawed and morally corrupt characters, to its underlying themes of lust and sexual fantasies, it really takes a herculean effort to weed through all of the debauchery and depression. Thankfully, a nice story twist about midway through the book rewards those who stick it out and marks the beginning of several plot turns that will keep the reader’s interest and make the remaining scenes of lust and unrequited passion a little more forgivable.
The story centers on three main characters: Ralph Truitt, Catherine Lane, and Tony Moretti (Ralph’s illegitimate son). All three do their fair share of whining and complaining and mourning a past that is lost and hating themselves for who they might have been. Interestingly, I found Tony’s character the most sympathetic of the three, although Goolrick paints him as the antagonist. He is the only one who truly deserves to feel betrayed and abandoned and can safely shroud himself in the term “victim”. Don’t get me wrong, all three have their reasons to mope and feel wronged by life, but only one trophy can be awarded and I don’t give out participation ribbons so Tony gets the prize.
Robert Goolrick gives us a tale of regret and remorse and poses the question of how far would someone go in order to make a person love them? I enjoyed this work far more than his book Heading Out to Wonderful, which I only gave 3/5 stars. Unlike the latter, A Reliable Wife felt consistent all the way to the end and proved to be a suspenseful and compelling read.
I’ll end this review with four important takeways that I learned from A Reliable Wife: 1) If you live in Wisconsin, get out of Dodge before the first snowflake falls. Winter marks the beginning of crazy season and you’re apt to either kill yourself, kill your family, kill yourself and your family (not in that order), or maim yourself (and possibly your family); 2) If your mother is a fanatical religious zealot, chances are you are going to grow up to be a hot mess; 3) A promise is a promise. No matter how ridiculous, immoral, unethical, or illegal the promise is, you have to keep it. No backing out.; and 4) Money doesn’t bring you happiness. No matter how good looking you are, well educated, worldly, well-spoken. It doesn’t matter. You are going to be miserable so just pin that badge to your chest and wear it proudly. So take a lesson from Ralph, Catherine, and Tony, just live a poor life in the tropics with a good therapist and don’t ever, EVER, make any promises. You can thank me later.
*Book cover image attributed to www.target.com
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