A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick is a tense story of desire and despair as our three main characters try to make peace with their destructive pasts while searching for redemption. I borrowed the book from a friend having no prior knowledge of it or the author because the premise for the story sounded intriguing. And, on that level, it didn't disappoint.
Set in early 20th century rural America, A Reliable Wife shows us the disturbed and seedy lifestyles of three lost souls whose lives become intertwined in a complex story of deceit, revenge, and manipulation. The characters are complicated, multi-dimensional individuals who I quickly became engrossed with. And, after a bit of a slow start, I was sucked into their twisted existence.
After years of self-imposed loneliness, wealthy businessman, Ralph Truitt, places an advertisement in the paper for a reliable wife. From the moment they first meet, Truitt and Catherine, his mail-order-bride, seem doomed. The reader discovers soon enough just how ill-fated this relationship will be. Complicating the matter further is Truitt's relentless desire to find his estranged son, Antonio. The three lives become entangled in a bizarre web of sex, lies, and violence.
Goolrick proves in this 2010 debut novel he is capable of writing elaborate and rich prose. However, some readers may find Goolrick's writing style pretentious, and at times I, too, found it a bit tedious. Yet, I feel it fit well with the time period. My biggest problem with the novel is that the ending was somewhat predictable.
Overall, A Reliable Wife is sexy and suspenseful. I enjoyed this novel and became attached to the pathetic characters despite becoming frustrated with them at times. The writing style is sophisticated, the plot enticing and thrilling, and the characters are filled with complex, psychological struggles. I couldn't help but want to know how they all turned out in the end.
I recommend this novel to fans of adult fiction, particularly if you like classic period novels, and readers who can appreciate delving into the minds of damaged individuals. There is a lot of sexual undertones and activity, albeit not explicit, which some readers may tire of. However, if you can get past the fact that our main characters are flawed, and focus on their journey to redemption, if that is even possible for them, I believe you will like this book.
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