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HCIU Resident Reviewer: A Reliable Wife

Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife has flooded bestseller lists this year with its tale of love, mystery, and murder.

Catherine Land steps off the train and greets her new husband, Ralph Truitt, setting into motion a chain of events that will take one family by storm.
Ralph is a man who had given up on love, until he received Catherine’s response to his ad for “a reliable wife.” Suddenly, he’s found a reason to live again and regained hope for getting back his long-lost son.
But Catherine is more than what she seems. Even as she begins to fall under the spell of life as Mrs. Truitt, she hides a deadly secret—one that could destroy them all.

If you’re looking for a grown-up version of Sarah, Plain and Tall— mail-order bride falls in love with lonely widower, befriends the kids, and arranges their happily-ever-after—then keep looking, because that’s not this story.
The novel, Goolrick’s first, starts off slow, but by the time I hit the hundred-page mark, I was reeling at all the surprises. As we slowly discover Ralph’s painful history and Catherine’s mysterious past, right up to the treacheries they’re enmeshed in, the story grows more and more stunning, right up to the astounding last page. I found myself staying up later than I planned, desperate to see what happened next.
Catherine and Ralph aren’t sympathetic characters—they’ve both done some pretty bad things—but I couldn’t help but feel drawn to them and want them to make it work.  The main source of conflict, Ralph’s son, is less deserving of sympathy, but by the end, I actually felt bad (as opposed to just wanting to push him in front of a moving vehicle).
A Reliable Wife, set at the turn of the 20th century is quite a doozy. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it, because it’s not my kind of thing (I was looking for the traditional love story), but it’s a powerful and gripping book.
For those who like gripping mystery and tales of intrigue, A Reliable Wife is for you. 

Midwest Booksellers Association
accessed on Jan. 31, 2011

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