Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

I caved! The red dress on the cover of Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife was too much ! Aside from the fact that the poor woman is headless (I'll save that rant), that is one kickass red dress. And it's my favorite red (my cell phone is that color, iPod, bedroom decor, etc.).

But enough about my shallow book picking methods.

I read the blurb ahead of time, and I even downloaded a preview for my Nook, but it seems that I still went into this book not really grasping what it was about. I knew it was about a "mail order" bride situation in snowy Wisconsin. That's about it, and that's probably a good thing. I think I have better luck with books if they simply get to unfold as I read rather than hearing or reading too much about them on the front end.

Let's start with what I liked about A Reliable Wife: the writing. Goolrick definitely has a way with his turn of phrase. In one portion of the book, Ralph and Catherine move house from a small farmhouse on his property to an Italian mansion he'd built for his deceased wife. The descriptions of the house: furnishings and decor, architecture, and Catherine's vision for the garden, were stunning and rich and opulent. I marked some passages I'll post later. I didn't bring the book to school with me on this early snow makeup day, but the passages really are worth sharing.

Unlike the last book I reviewed, which was largely about plot, A Reliable Wife is character driven and slow at times, though that never really turned me off. To give a brief synopsis of the characters...the rich widower, Ralph Truitt, advertises for a "reliable wife" and in steps Catherine Land. Catherine and Ralph both have troubled pasts and all hell breaks loose--emotionally, sexually, etc.--when they get together. In short, and without ruining anything for you, Catherine is armed with a bottle of arsenic and plans to poison Ralph slowly and enjoy his fortune. Goolrick did a great job setting this book during a Wisconsin winter because the story takes on an atmosphere of claustrophobia. The characters don't have a whole lot to do except sit around and think, and we're privvy to those thoughts in all their gory detail. I also enjoyed the complexity of the characters. Not Catherine so much, but Ralph is an interesting guy with some surprising thoughts about his new "reliable wife." He's savvier than she gives him credit for, and he's a lot more forgiving of some of her shortcomings than I would've been.

So now for what I didn't like. Goolrick writes longggg rambling passages about sexual escapades and desires which, at times, I wished had just stayed in the characters' heads. Given, Ralph has been without any lovin' for about 20 years, so I'm not surprised that he's a bit frustrated, but COME ON. There were so many ruminations on sex from all the characters that it got really old. The sex was about as exciting as an OB visit, let me just put it that way.

Overall, despite having some quibbles, I was happy with this one. I read it in two days, which just goes to show that it sucked me in and didn't let go. Now I've picked up The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I'm not far in, so I have no idea how it'll go, but I'm hoping for more good luck!

FTC: It was from the library. Didn't even have the cover I like so much.

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