Review: A Reliable Wife (MMBC Selection)

Thrilling, Unexpected, Solid
The book giveaway is now closed (in record time)!

A Reliable Wife is our seventh selection for the MMBC. We will begin discussing the book on Wednesday, August 19th. The author/publisher has generously donated 12 books. If you are interested in participating please send me an email with your address and ‘A Reliable Wife’ in the subject line.

I first read about this book this past January/February and immediately reached out to the publisher for an early copy. A Reliable Wife is the story of an unhappy man who places an ad in the paper for ‘a reliable wife’ and the woman who steps off the train doesn’t look like the photo he had been sent. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with Ralph who accepts Catherine into his life in hopes to pick up the pieces.

This is a solid book club selection, filled with many discussion topics including deception, ethics, love and hatred to name a few. The story takes many twists and turns and keeps the reader engrossed from the first page to the end. There were many times in this book when I thought…wow, I didn’t see that coming! I can’t wait to discuss the book in detail on August 19th.
You might not like the rigidness of the book, I didn't feel the emotions of the characters but maybe that was the point. It's a cold story

Below you will find and author Q&A and details about the book.

A Conversation with Robert Goolrick:
Tell us a little about yourself: I grew up in Virginia, in the country, and, as a family, since we didn’t have a television, our main forms of entertainment were reading and talking. We were allowed and encouraged to read anything – my brother read War and Peace at twelve, we all read The New Yorker, and Cheever and O’Hara and tons of Dickens. My grandmother lived with us, a great woman, and she adored Dickens and despised pretty much everything else written after that, so it gave us something to talk about with her. And talking. My father was sort of the king of anecdotes, so I grew up, as Southerners do, listening to endless stories about friends and relatives who had died decades or even centuries before I was born.

Do you write daily? No. When I’m starting a book, I tend to think about it ceaselessly, without ever writing anything. When I DO start to write, I work a little bit at a time, then a little more, and the more obsessed I get, the more I write, until I find myself writing ten hours a day. My first published book, THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, was written in two months. A RELIABLE WIFE, which was written before the memoir, too years of thought, literally years, and then came fairly quickly, inside of a year.

People think writing is easy. It’s not. And it’s a real job, so writers will generally do anything they can think of to shirk their tasks. I always say the worst thing that ever happened to writers was the invention of the frost-free refrigerator because, with the old ones, when all the other methods of shirking were exhausted, you could always defrost the refrigerator. That’s a whole day right there.

What was it like getting your first novel published? A RELIABLE WIFE is actually my second book, but there was a strong and welcome air of excitement around it, particularly from booksellers around the country. If they like it, it’s a great leg up, because then they believe they can sell it and recommend it honestly to customers.

It takes a surprisingly long time to have a book published, years, so you have a lot of time to fret and equivocate, and you have to force yourself to simply let go, and let the process happen at its own snail’s pace.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I don’t have one, but I see people with them and I feel a kind of envy. They seem to be kind of an Etch-A-Sketch for literature and information, and they’re new enough so that they always attract some attention and a question or two.

Anything that gets people to read is fine by me and, it’s true, books are heavy.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? It’s really, really hard to get a first novel published these days. Do not give up until you absolutely have to. A friend of mine says, “If three people tell you you’re drunk, lie down,” but three is barely scratching the surface in publishing. Twenty-eight publishers turned my novel down, and I hope by the time you’re reading this, they’re scratching their heads in bewilderment.

What are you reading now?
THE NEW VALLEY, By Josh Weil, a remarkable, stunning collection of novellas by a writer who is already up there with our very best.

AMERICAN RUST, by Phillip Meyer, a tour de force, complex, inventively written, an exploration of the ramifications of a single regrettable act, and of the spider web of moral ambiguity which can catch even the most decent and ordinary people.

MURDER CITY, by Michael Lesy, whose book WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP influenced my novel tremendously. A finely detailed examination of notorious murder cases in Chicago in the Twenties, it makes the musical named after the city seem like REBECCA OF SUNNYBROOK FARM.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: THE TRANSIT OF VENUS, by Shirley Hazzard, (practically my favorite modern novel of all time,) THEM, by Joyce Carol Oates, because it contains the sentence: “He knew if he had a car he was an American and he could not die,” LIGHT YEARS, by James Salter, because it is the most grownup book I’ve ever read, and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, by John Irving, because it is completely complete, birth to death, and wholly satisfying in very way, without a single loose thread.

Just for fun:
Favorite Season: Fall
Morning or night: Night
Favorite ice cream flavor: Butter Pecan
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: Angkor Wat, ten years ago, Cuba right now, Parrot Cay in February, any February.

Type: Fiction, 291 pages, hardcover

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.

“Astonishing, complex, beautifully written, and brilliant, A Reliable Wife is a nearly-forensic look at love in all its incarnations, with all its damages, deceptions, and obsessions, run through with points of light and pinned with ruinous truths.”—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

“A Reliable Wife “generates some real suspense. . . . This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close.”—Publishers Weekly