Wednesday, June 9, 2010
A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick
This is a wicked Gothic tale slowly unfolding in the despair of the 1907 Wisconsin winter. Ralph Truitt, richest man in town, has advertised for “a reliable wife”. Catherine Land, the chosen one travels by train to remote northern Wisconsin to become Truitt’s wife. Despite the title, no one in this story is reliable. Truitt, a fifty something businessman, mourns the loss of a family from twenty years ago. Land while presenting herself as from a missionary family is a courtesan with a hidden agenda. Slowly Land comes to love Truitt; slowly Truitt comes to realize that Land is less than advertised. This is a complex and layered story that advances in fits and starts. The deliberateness with which the author introduces the plot supports the character development of both Truitt and Land. To the credit of the author he makes Catherine a sympathetic character despite her nefarious plans. This is a true Gothic story with the requisite elements – a mansion in a remote location, a suspicious housekeeper, a dead first wife, a prodigal son. You are definitely required to suspend belief to accept some of the plot twists. There was lots of imagery in this story, some of which worked for me – winter and snow linking to despair and aloneness- other images which didn’t – water and birds linking to? The author makes the almost unimaginable love story between Truitt and Land ring true. His prose is delightfully relevant “that marriage brought a kind of simple pleasure, a pleasure in the continued company of another human being, the act of caring, of carrying with you the thought of someone else”.
I would recommend this book. The prose and the developing relationship between Truitt and Land were worth the read and overcame my criticisms of the too heated ruminations of Ralph on his sex life, imagery that didn’t work for me, and plot twists that require some patience. Ultimately this story of lust, falsehoods, murder is one that centers on forgiveness. This is a first novel for Goolrick, but he had a nonfiction memoir “The End of the World as We Know it: Scenes From a Life" that I’d like to go back and read.