Sunday, September 11, 2022

Review: A Reliable Wife (book) by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife is a historical mystery/suspense. I checked it out from the library.


Ralph Truitt places an ad for a "reliable wife" in a Chicago paper, hoping to finally have someone around who could ease his loneliness. He expects Catherine Land to be a plain woman. Instead, she turns out to be beautiful, and very much not the person in the picture she sent. He knows she's hiding something, but he doesn't feel like he can send her away when it's so cold out (his home is in an isolated area in Wisconsin). When he injures himself and she helps care for him, he decides that he'll allow her to stay and be his wife, even if she wasn't the woman he expected and likely has ulterior motives.

Catherine does, in fact, have ulterior motives. She has brought a bottle of arsenic with her and, after her marriage to Ralph, intends to slowly kill him and inherit everything he has. Except she starts to actually like Ralph, and suddenly it becomes difficult to hold onto her original plan. All she has to do is ask for something and he gives it to her - is it really necessary to kill him?

Ralph has his own plans. He wants Catherine to help him convince his now-adult son to come back home. However, that won't be easy to manage, nor will it necessarily be the best thing for Ralph and his dreams of a family.

This was not for me, at all. Some books leave you with warm and hopeful feelings about humanity. This book does the opposite. There's despair, madness, loneliness, and people being just plain awful to each other. It all feeds on itself and produces more awfulness until there's nothing left. Any feelings of peace or happiness are momentary at best, and rooted in lies.

I probably should have DNFed this book early on, when Ralph annoyed me with his constant obsessive thoughts about sex - the sex everyone besides him must be having. It's amazing the guy was so good at business, considering every stray thought of his seemed to be about sex.

Granted, he had a horrible childhood, with a mother who literally stabbed him with a needle to show him what Hell is like. She also made him think that sex was something only a filthy, awful, and corrupt person would enjoy, so when he started getting interested in girls, he figured he was corrupt and awful too. When he finally fell in love with someone and tried to have a happy life with her, she cheated on him. Everyone else in his awful, remote little town also had miserable lives, so he grew old thinking that "miserable" was the way things would be for him forever. Adding Catherine to his life was supposed to at least help him be less lonely.

I didn't like Ralph, although I occasionally felt sympathy for him. The same went for Catherine. They were two incredibly damaged and emotionally stunted people who, oddly enough, likely would have been perfect for each other if things had gone a bit differently. Unfortunately, like I said, pretty much everyone in this book was some degree of awful, and when they all ended up in the same house together, it was a recipe for disaster.

I finished this book, but I can't say that I'm happy I did. Reading it was like watching something rot. It was effectively done, but that's not necessarily a good thing.

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