Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Reliable Wife

by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable WifeOh hi. Remember me? I thought maybe not. Honestly, I think about you often, my dear blog, and have been meaning to get back to you. Where has this year gone? Why have I been so busy? I'm not sure I can put my non-stop summer and fall into words that would make you understand why you've been neglected. But I'm back. No more excuses. I love to read and write about the books I've read. I'm ten posts behind. Today, this quiet, lovely Saturday, I vow to you to catch up on all of those reviews. I won't post them all at once, that would be silly. I'm thinking two a week for now. Maybe more. We'll see. But here goes...

Unfortunately, I resume my reviews with a crazy one. Ralph is a man who puts an ad in the newspaper for a "reliable wife." He feels he is unable to find a woman any other way, and in 1907, this may not be too unusual a method. Catherine responds to the ad and arrives by train to meet Ralph for the first time and marry him. So far it seems pretty interesting, right? Goolrick's writing style is quite smart and I was hooked from the beginning. But then the story turned dark and sinister and downright depressing. One of Ralph's greatest regrets in life is becoming estranged from his son. So he enlists his new wife to help find his son so that they can make amends. When Catherine finds the son, a series of unpredictable events begin to unfold and the book completely changes tone.

A Reliable Wife is:
1. Dark
2. Well-written
3. Depressing
4. Sinister

Ralph is:
1. Pathetic
2. Weak
3. Desperate

Catherine is:
1. Maniacal
2. Deceitful
3. Flawed

A Reliable Wife is not:
1. Typical
2. Comforting
3. Recommended by me

I think this quote from the last few pages of the book sums it up perfectly:

"It was a story of a son who felt his one true birthright was to kill his father. It was the story of a father who could not undo a single gesture of his life, no matter the sympathies of his heart. It was a story of poison, poison that causes you to weep in your sleep, that comes to you first as a taste of ecstasy. It was a story of people who don't choose life over death until it's too late to know the difference, people whose goodness is forgotten, left behind like a child's toy in a dusty playroom, people who see many things and remember only a handful of them and learn from even fewer, people who hurt themselves, who wreck their own lives and then go on to wreck the lives of those around them, who cannot be helped or assuaged by love or kindness or luck or charm, who forget kindness, the feeling and practice of it, and how it can save even the worst, most misshapen life from despair.

It was just a story about despair."

Decide for yourself.

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