Saturday, April 11, 2009



by Robert Goolrick


In a recent review in the NEWSLETTER, Robert Goolrick writes that “Life is ambiguous, and goodness is often elusive. It usually takes unexpected and more muddled forms than we had hoped for.” These words reverberated with me as I finished Goolrick’s A RELIABLE WIFE. Throughout, this gripping and intense novel, molded around three amazingly well-developed character studies, the reader finds the “unexpected” and more “than we had hoped for” or can even imagine. This is a book that captures your attention from page one and doesn’t let go even after you complete it. A RELIABLE WIFE will haunt you, make you think, wish for people who have read it to be near by so you can discuss it, and never, never disappoint.

A RELIABLE WIFE starts out innocuously as what one might think is a common theme written about before; the early 1900s mail-order bride story. We have seen this in musicals, comedies, fiction and non-fiction. We think we know this story but we are oh so wrong! In the frigid, barren land of Wisconsin in 1907, the story takes on a totally different turn then ever before. As we meet Ralph Truitt waiting at the train station for the lady who has answered his advertisement and whom he has corresponded with, we begin to learn about Truitt. He is sad and tragic, with a dark history when it comes to family and relationships.

Meanwhile, on board that incoming train is Catherine Land who will shed her old image, literally throwing it off the train, to arrive set to play the part of the demure, simple woman, dressed appropriately and drab, to meet the man she is to marry. Sewn in her hem are the few baubles and jewels from her past that are her ticket out of Wisconsin should she decide she must leave quickly. In a mishap in the snow with the wagon and horses on the way to Truitt’s home, Catherine loses those items and Truitt is injured. So literally, like the horses, the story is off and running.

Slowly, like the thin layers of an onion falling off little by little, the characters gradually reveal more about their perverted desires and obsessions. Ralph Truitt is wealthy and the leader in his community. Living through the long and tedious months of snow, gray, and cold, people go mad and in some way, we wonder if Truitt at some point has as well. His past is filled with betrayal and disappointment and he now wants as normal a life with this new woman as might be possible.

As we get to know Catherine, her background is hinted at not only by her sudden transformation on the train but by a mysterious blue bottle she covets and hides in her suitcase. She becomes the kind of woman that Ralph Truitt wants according to what she can tell. As their odd and certainly foreign relationship develops, the past of these two characters remains hidden from each other although it is sometimes insinuated. Slowly, Ralph opens up to this “reliable” woman who seems to have the qualities he seeks. They are married following an unconventional courtship, if you can call it that. One of the things Catherine brings to the marriage according to Truitt’s thinking is the promise to try and bring back his son. This son left home following what Catherine comes to find out was not normal circumstances. Perhaps Ralph Truitt has more to him than meets the eye.

Catherine sets out in search of the son, Antonio Moretti, to bring him home and keep a promise to this man who has treated her so well. This should put Truitt’s mind at ease, but the tale reveals yet another layer of madness. In St. Louis, where Catherine goes with the detectives supplied by Truitt, the reader will now meet Antonio but also another Catherine only vaguely hinted at before. Robert Goolrick continually turns and weaves this story with one after another subtle, ingenious, dark and evil, even erotic twist. If this story doesn’t keep your attention literally until the last page, then nothing will!

Robert Goolrick writes of people who have done awful things and are not good people to start with; yet try to redeem themselves if even just in some small way. Whether you think he has done that, only you can tell by reading this book. DO NOT miss this one! I challenge you do not be taken, or taken IN with, these three characters and this story. But whatever you do, do not miss it!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great review! I can't wait to read it. (I'm hoping the Easter Bunny will bring it in my basket!)

And I love the dancing chicks!

bermudaonion said...

Wow! I can't wait to read this one now.

kalea_kane said...

What an amazing review! I am definitely looking out for this one! What an awesome twist on the whole mail order bride theme!

Kaye said...

Hi, Bingo. I've given you the Bloggers best friend award. Stop by and pick up the logo when you get a chance. Here's hoping you have a blessed and peaceful Easter.

Bingo said...

Thank you, Kaye! and all for the nice review for the giveaway tomorrow as it is a REALLY, REALLY good book!

Kristi said...

Loved your review! I have won this book in a drawing and I really must get to it!

Bingo said... are lucky to have and read it..I'd love to hear if you like it as much as I did!