A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick – book review

This is a story about love, loneliness and redemption. I can’t say that I especially enjoyed it, it’s full of sorrow and quite depressing in places. I was reading it for the Las Vegas Woman’s Book Club, we meet on Tuesdays once a month. I don’t think I’d have picked it up if it wasn’t for this group. But then, reading the reviews on the back, it does sound pretty good; captivating, disquieting memoir, psychological tale…. maybe I’m just too literal to fully get it.

In early 1900’s in deepest, cold Wisconsin, Ralph advertises for a “practical wife”, he corresponds with Catherine, and after a while he sends for her. We’re told his sad back story, to understand why a man might be in a position to advertise for a wife in a newspaper. Then, quite a bit later on, we’re told her sad back story, for the first third or so of the book, we can only guess, but it’s hinted at.

The three main characters perfectly epitomize tragic loneliness in their own different ways. Nobody is able to communicate with anyone else. They drift about their large house in their own worlds torturing themselves with their grief and inner turmoil. All their problems, of course, stem back to their childhoods.

I sort of like Catherine, and I can understand how she got to were she is. People change and want different things as they go through life, and quite frequently they find themselves settling for a lifestyle when they’re older that they never would have imagine as a young person. I could like Ralph, if he hadn’t done what he did to his son. I find it hard to reconcile the two characters of young Ralph and old Ralph.

I just wish the characters would just talk to each other! Then it would all be out in the open and they could get on with their lives! But of course they won’t because they hardly know each other – they got married from an ad in a newspaper. It’s torturous for the reader – you want to shout at them both.

So, beautifully written but not fun to read.

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One Response to A Reliable Wife – Robert Goolrick

  1. Nicole says:

    I agree with you on the book. I read it several years ago for another book club and did not particularly like it so I didn’t re-read it for our discussion. I’ll be following your blog. 🙂 See you in August and maybe we’ll get a chance to talk.

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