“A Reliable Wife” is a stark and haunting novel by Robert Goolrick, set in Wisconsin during the harsh winter of 1908-09. The author says he was inspired to write this story after reading a book by Michael Lesy called “The Wisconsin Death Trip” about the last part of the 19th century.
In this novel Ralph Truitt, a wealthy industrialist, places an ad for a “Reliable Wife.”
He has loved once and that was a disaster. All he wants now is a quiet companionship. He regrets much that he has done with his life. He most especially regrets how he treated his son.
Anthony ran away years ago and now Truitt has no contact with him at all. Catherine Land answers his ad.
She too has many regrets but she has a plan. She wants money, and Truitt has plenty. She will pretend to be what he wants until she gets what she wants.
The writing is beautiful, minimalistic and stark just like the harsh winter. People go crazy in those long winters – no sun and no warmth.
Each of these characters has a rage deep within that is waiting to explode. The plot takes many twists as the reader discovers their hidden motives. In the end it becomes a question of whether one can truly start all over again.
Ralph Truitt had an unhappy childhood, hated his mother and never wanted to take over his father’s business.
He says, “I wanted to be somebody else – we all wanted to be somebody else. Somebody braver or more handsome, or smarter. It is what children want. It’s what you grow out of, if you are lucky. If you don’t, it is a lifetime of agony.”