Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: A Reliable Wife

Reliable Wife cover Title: A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick
Genre: Fiction
Pub Date: March 2009, Algonquin Books
Hardcover, 291 pages

Synopsis from

Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.

My Thoughts

I almost did not even want to write the review for this book, because I realized that I seem to be in the minority among most reviewers. But I am adhering to my policy of giving honest reviews, and after all, how can someone like every book they read? So let it be said that I did not particularly enjoy this book. Oh, at the beginning there were moments I felt the spark of intrigue and thought that the story would improve, but unfortunately that did not happen for me.

To begin, I found Goolrick's style of writing difficult to read. Many have described it as lyrical, but I really found it to be more of a muddled mess by someone who is trying to write a literary masterpiece. And honestly, I wish I had read more reviews of this book before deciding to read it, but I hesitated to do so because I am always afraid to read too many spoilers... But if I had done my research I would have realized that the entire book essentially revolves around sex, whether it's longing for it, having it, or dealing with its consequences. And the scenes are almost painful to read. In the end, I skimmed over most of the sex and the last third of the book. Sure, there was intrigue and the possibility of murder hanging in the balance, but having it all spelled out early on rather ruined the suspense for me. I found the book drearily predictable in parts, yet the storyline felt wholly implausible by the time everything was said and done.

I know many people loved this book and I will include links to their reviews below. Unfortunately, it was not for me nor could I recommend it to anyone.

My rating:
Other reviews of A Reliable Wife:

MarysLibrary ~ Barney's Book Blog

If you have reviewed this book and don't see your site listed above, please leave a comment with the link to your review below, and I will add it. Thanks!


  1. A good honest review is always appreciated! Thanks, Melissa. :)

  2. I have not read this book yet but it's true that everybody seemed to like it a lot.
    I do however appreciate your honest opinion about it, especially that the things you listed do sound valid and reasonable not to like the novel. I especially liked your interpretation of "lyrical" as the authors failed attempts at writing a masterpiece. Well done.

  3. I'm always a bit suspicious when there is nothing but glowing reviews for a particular book. There are so few that are absolutely flawless so I appreciate the honest criticism.

  4. Thank you so much for the review, and especially the mention of the S*x part, that would drive me insane insane insane.
    After not getting this book, and wanting it after reading all the wonderful reviews,
    I feel so much better now :) Thank you!

  5. Sorry this one didn't work for you, Melissa!! "Many have described it as lyrical, but I really found it to be more of a muddled mess by someone who is trying to write a literary masterpiece" I've found this in some books I've read (ok, a lot), and sometimes it seems like the author is just trying too hard! Hope the next one is better for you!

  6. I haven't heard much about this book, but I do know it's gotten quite a bit of praise, but not every book will appeal to everyone, right? It's refreshing to come across a negative review now and then--it offers balance. I am so glad you said something about the sex. If I do eventually decide to read it, I want to be prepared. :-) Thanks for your great review, Melissa.

  7. An award for you :)

  8. Melissa, good for you being honest in your review. For me, it was one of the best books I have read this year and my interview with author Robert Goolrick was quite interesting. I didn't see the sex as a major part at all but found the book was rather a character study of some very complex people and a story that was very dark. The last part was really the best part and made me gasp out loud at the twists and turns in the plot. I will say if I don't like a book by the time I am 1/3 of the way through, I quit--life is too short and there are too many good books I will enjoy out there. I know how you feel as I have read books that my whole book club adored and I couldn't even get through it. This book would make a really good book club book as I know there would be all different opinions on what the story was really about. Here is hoping the next book you read will be more to your liking.

  9. Melissa, Sorry you didn't enjoy this book. I have heard so many good things about this book that I am glad I came across your review. I have to keep those expectations in check! Hope your next read is more enjoyable.

  10. I know how you feel. I have had a week of books like that.

  11. I totally understand not wanting to write a negative review for a book that everybody seems to be raving about! I've felt that way on a couple of occasions. Still I appreciate your honesty. I'm still not sure if I want to read this one myself.

  12. I love the look of your blog by the way!

  13. Argh, I'd written you a comment and it got munched by the interwebs gremlins. So, I'm trying this again! I'm glad you posted this review, even though I also totally understand that feeling of being in a very small minority in not liking a book and how hard that can be. I'm very much on the fence still as to whether I would want to read this or not.

    I really like your blog layout by the way!

  14. Thanks for the support, everyone. It made me feel a lot better because I swear I was cringing as I clicked on "Publish."

  15. thanks for the honest review, sorry you didnt enjoy this one.

  16. Sorry this one didn't cut it for you Melissa. I have the book but haven't had a chance to read it yet so not sure what I'll think. I hope you're next read is much better.


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