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Review: A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife is set in Wisconsin in 1907. Ralph Truitt is a local, wealthy businessman who advertised in a Chicago newspaper for “a reliable wife.” Catherine Land answered the advertisement, and sets in motion a plot to poison her husband.

The novel is marred by heavy-handed prose that aims to be literary, but isn’t. A really depressing theme and plot does not make a novel great. Actually, I got really, really bored by the obsessive way in which Goolrick describes things. An entire chapter on waiting for a train? Really? A hallmark of a great novel is one in which the theme is subtle, but powerful, and makes you think about it long after you’ve read the book; in this one, Goolrick hits his reader on the head—over and—over—with his theme.

Ralph Truitt’s obsession with sex becomes tiresome by page 30, and the plot is filled with some major gaps. Why would Ralph hire someone to find his son, but not have them check into his wife’s past, for example? Was it just me, or did the author plagiarize scenes from other novels? The novel is billed as suspense, but it’s hard to see such in a novel where one of the main character’s motives are displayed right from the get-go—heck, even in the blurb on the back of the book!

Don’t take my word for it though. There are plenty of people who loved this book. It just wasn’t for me.

Also reviewed by: A Garden Carried in the Pocket, Literate Housewife Review, Estella's Revenge


Meghan said…
I've seen a number of mediocre reviews for this book now. It makes me glad I didn't actually manage to get an ARC!

- Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm
Anonymous said…
I really enjoyed this one, so it's interesting to read your review and see how different we readers really can be. I loved Goolrick's descriptions and the way he made the landscape a character in the story, and I felt like the characters developed in interesting ways that the blurb on the back didn't give away at all.

You win some, you lose some....hope you'll enjoy your next read more.
Prisca said…
I know EXACTLY what you mean about this book. I was really looking forward to reading this since it had such glowing reviews, but I thought the sexual imagery was totally over the top. I'm not at all prudish, but it just didn't advance the story and it did become tedious. I don't usually expect to skim sex scenes! Goolrick's descriptions seemed almost cartoonish after a few pages.

I also thought the plot 'twist' was far more predictable than I expected. I'd say it was a quick skim / beach read-- no literary gem.
Sorry you did not enjoy this one. I have it on my shelf and hope to get to it soon.
Andi said…
Blah! the premise sounded really promising, but one of my biggest peeves is a novel that bashes the reader over the head with its heavy-handedness. I'll pass!
Monique said…
I have seen so many good reviews of this book. But haven't put it on my TBR pile, because it didn't spark my interest that much. But your review was really good.
I have this on my TBR list afte reading a lot of good reviews. Now I am not so excited...!
Becca said…
Interesting. I had not seen a review on this one that renders the book "heavy handed". But I agree that a chapter on waiting for a train seems odd. I guess it depends on how important to the story it is. My attention wanes very easily so I need a book to keep moving for the most part. I am curious to know what my own reaction will be.
S. Krishna said…
I actually loved this book, I'm so sorry it wasn't for you! Oh well :-)
Gwendolyn B. said…
I've read so many complimentary things about this book -- Now I'm even more interested to read it! I want to see which side my opinion falls on. Thanks for your thoughts!
Danielle said…
I have this one as well and have started reading, but I've gotten a little distracted. I'm still on the train chapter, and am curious if this is one that will be for me as well. I've heard many good things about it, so I will keep going, but I may not get back to it right away.
I read this, finally, and agreed with you. I linked to you:
Unknown said…
I'm so glad to see someone else articulate what I thought of this came in my "indispenable" package from Powell's and I honestly consider it a disappointment for exactly the reasons that you did.

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