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A Reliable Wife

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  70,409 Ratings  ·  9,736 Reviews
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 terribl ...more
Paperback, 305 pages
Published January 5th 2010 by Algonquin Books (first published 2009)
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Elizabeth Monteleone It seems that way....that's why i was sorta meh on it.
Terri Her and antonio were lovers and when she came across the ad she answered it so she could kill Ralph and Antonio would have it all. That's what I made…moreHer and antonio were lovers and when she came across the ad she answered it so she could kill Ralph and Antonio would have it all. That's what I made out of it. This book was strange. (less)

Community Reviews

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Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: never-read-again
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tara Chevrestt
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
They say that men think about sex approximately every seven seconds. This book mentions sex approximately every seven seconds and seeing the author is male, I no longer question the seven second theory. The storyline is a pretty good idea. Man places an ad in the paper for a reliable wife. Woman responds with hidden intentions of killing the man slowly with arsenic, making herself a wealthy widow. However, upon meeting the man's son, her plans may or may not change. The son addition may shock so ...more
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: g-hr
Actual rating: 1.5 stars generously rounded up to 2

There are some spoilers.

This novel centers around Ralph Truitt, a man who's been wronged many times — and his misfortunes are far from over. Mind you, Truitt isn't a saint, but in this reader's opinion he doesn't deserve what happens to him in this novel.
It all starts when Truitt puts an ad in the paper looking for a "reliable wife". But the women he comes to marry is anything but reliable. (She's also a faithless scheming bitch, but more on tha
Even though I have alredy sent this, I am updating for my Best of 2009 list:

This was a terrific novel with the gothic feel of past novels such as REBECCA and the recent THIRTEENTH TALE. In 1907 Catherine Land answers an ad for a “reliable wife” to the wealthy businessman Ralph Truitt. He knows nothing of her sordid past nor does he have any idea of her plans, which is to leave rural Wisconsin a wealthy widow (in her suitcase is a small blue bottle filled with a nasty substance). But what gets in
Halfway through this book, sick of every character having a wanton, unquenchable libido, I wanted to shout at Goolrick, "If you want some that bad, get some and then come back to the story." It wasn't raunchy or descriptive or anything like that. It was just an undertone that tainted the novel with an erotic feel. I didn't question one lustful character with a history of excessive sleeping around, but every single one was a bit much. I will give Goolrick credit that despite this being historical ...more
May 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I kindled this book, inspired by a stormy Friday night home alone, hoping for a romantic transportation to a Wisconsin winter a century ago. The premise is good, some fellow, (a rich rural industrialist) advertises for a reliable wife and this female character turns up much prettier than the picture she sent, but that is just the least of her deception. Anyway, on it goes, murky pasts and dramatic ongoings, but soon I found myself realizing that this book was a hollow, repetitious, skeletal fram ...more
At first I was drawn to this book because of it's apparent similarities to the movie, Original Sin, which I happen to love and think is both dark and sexy - hey, it's a guilty pleasure. This book though, is a lot different from what I originally imagined it would be. It's incredibly well-written, dark and poetic, sexy, disturbing, and sad. I was surprised at some of the twists and turns the story took and I have to say I was pleasantly misled into thinking I knew what was going on. This is one o ...more
Maria Clara
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cuando terminas de leer un libro como éste, no puedes dejar de preguntarte cómo puedes transmitir todo lo que sientes, en unas pocas palabras. O cómo puedes plasmar las sensaciones que anegan tu alma, sin hacer antes un dibujo de cada palabra; de cada párrafo; de cada página que has pasado, ávida. Sencillamente es imposible. Es como querer retener un puñado de aire en un puño cerrado. Sólo puedo decir que olvides la carátula, que olvides la sinopsis, que olvides estas palabras... y lo leas. Sólo ...more
I waited two days from the time I finished this to update my review. In all seriousness, I could not decide between three and four. I couldn't figure out if I loved it or liked it.

There were certain parts that I thought warranted five stars, but others that I simply didn't care for. The opening scene of Ralph Truitt waiting for the train, with the whispering town all around him was so evocative, desperate, and beautiful. The parts in St. Louis after Catherine Land found Truitt's son dragged on
j e w e l s [Books Bejeweled]
This book just made it into my TWISTER HALL OF FAME at

If you’re in the mood for a quick easy read, you might want to skip this one. A Reliable Wife deserves your time to digest, enjoy, study. Filled with symbolism and theme, it is one of my all time favorite books. It is a suspenseful, plot twisted story that takes place in the early American 1900’s. The setting is isolated, cold and creepy and the characters are wholly unpredictable. At the heart of the story is a smolder
Jessica S.
Dec 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
The story had potential, even though it's been done a hundred times. A lonely, rich man places an ad in the paper for "a reliable wife," and a beautiful, mysterious woman answers, with the hidden intent of killing him and taking his fortune.

The main problem I had with this book was the length--it could have easily been cut in half had the author not felt the need to repeat and over-elaborate on every little detail. It took an immense amount of discipline not to fast forward through every other
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow... okay, this book got darker and darker, and basically delivered a gut punch that left me reeling and feeling a little sick! BUT at the same time, it was beautifully written -- even as the characters did some extremely ugly things. Some of my overwhelmed-sick-gut-punch feelings might have to do with how I gulped down more than half the book in one sitting (but this also speaks to its addictive readability!). The twists are classic/familiar ones, but I felt were combined in such a way as to ...more
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I know they say sex sells, but this was ridiculous. If they weren’t doing the deed, they were talking about it, or thinking about it, or it was just lingering in the air somehow. That by itself didn’t make this a bad novel. It just lacked so much substance and the intrigue I was hoping for. It’s like the author relied on sex to make up for a badly executed novel.

The premise of A Reliable Wife sounded intriguing. It’s the early 1900’s. A guy puts an ad in for “a reliable wife” and, indeed, gets
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this novel in one day, my first novel of 2010, and I could not put it down. It is the type of novel that gets under your skin and is difficult to shake for several days. It was a unique story, the characters were extremely compelling, and the atmosphere was very dark and Gothic. If this novel was ever made into a movie, I would expect it to be set in perpetual snow and gray fog.

Other reviewers here have set forth the main story here so I won't reiiterate it. I agree with those who said t
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick,

ISBN 9781565125964, Algonquin Books

$23.95, March 2009

With A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick has given us a rare treat, a story so good we are loathe to start another book for fear it will fail utterly in comparison.

It is 1907 and Ralph Truitt is seeking a wife. Catherine Land is the woman who answers his call. In the midst of a swirling snowstorm, she steps off of the train and into his life. She is not what he expected. Nor is he as naïve as she had hoped.
May 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Beautifully written emotions of loss, love and redemption. The plot is well woven and exciting you take a step into the darkness of the heart and of their mistakes and losses of love and finding of new love and chances of redemption. You really want love to be found and the relationship to work for the two main characters but also you anticipate who will be killed off an enjoyable easy read, atmospheric set in rural Wisconsin 1907 during bitter cold snow.
Stacey Nerdin _Scenic Life Designs
Intense. Atmospheric (has been compared to Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, and I can see that). Sooooo good. Some of the sexual content will not be for everyone, and tipped my own scales in terms of comfort level, but I could not let this story go. Or maybe it couldn't let me go. You just get so consumed by what is going on. I *had* to know how it would end.
Nov 24, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick, is the story of how Catherine Land answers a rather pathetic sounding classified ad placed by a lonely, tormented rich man. From the beginning of her correspondence with him, Catherine is up to no good at all: she plans on slowly poisoning Ralph Truitt and having his fortune for herself.

Automatically, I expected this tale to turn into one of those beautiful, gradual love stories in which Catherine falls in love with Ralph and realizes the dream of having bot

Read, read, skim skim skim, read, skim skim, read, skim read. Oh dear. I found this book hilarious, which is certainly not what the author intended. Enough already after ten pages. I get the point: the guy is damaged and lonely. Enough already about snow, enough already about libraries, enough already about oysters and champagne. Even enough already about sex. Could never have imagined sex scenes could be this boring and repetitious.

Sorry for any spoilers that follow, but I couldn’t care less.

Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jackie by: April 2009 IndieNext list
This book, the #1 IndieNext list pick for April 2009, is an infinite loop of love turning to hate and hate turning to love and what all that kinetic passion does to the people who experience it. Set mainly in rural Wisconsin in the depths of the winter of 1907, this is a story of a wealthy man and his mail-order bride at it's very basic root. Both of these people have dark histories that they are trying to forget--or are they? They are strangers to each other--or are they? All that is true in th ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In a word: horrible.

It's been awhile since I read a book this bad. In fact, I may never have read a book this bad.

Such things happen.

A Reliable Wife starts out slow and never picks up speed. The contrived, implausible, paper-thin plot took about 70 pages to develop. A wealthy, unhappy middle-aged man advertises for a wife. The rest of the story is filled with wordy sentences, rambling narratives, stumbling dialogue, plot inconsistencies and one-dimensional characters so undeveloped and uninteres
Kim H
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
A decent, engrossing read, but it's really not anything unique. It's a little bit Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip (which Goolrick cites as the inspiration), and a lot Cornell Woolrich's Waltz Into Darkness, which inspired the 2001 film Original Sin with Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie. If you're acquainted with any of these works, you'll be in familiar territory here.
Just cutting to the chase - the storyline is predictable and the ending a little unsettled. It's not wholly without merit
Jan 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me quite some time ago by family members, but the time never seemed right to read it. This week, though, as I needed a new book and nothing on my TBR bookshelf appealed to me, I remembered this book and decided to give it a try. I'm very glad I did.

Goolrick has an almost poetic way with the language and builds suspense beautifully in this, his first, novel. It is a very gothic tale. As I was reading it, for some reason I kept thinking of Edgar Allan Poe, and the poem
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
2 stars: "It was okay."

Well written, but I wanted more gothic trappings--more twists and turns, more creaking stairwells, more sinister secrets--but instead, this book is largely about a middle-aged man ruminating on sex.

And the last thing the world needs is another book about an aging white dude's sex life!
This was an ok read. That was clear from the second chapter. I would call this American Gothic. It is dark, dealing with the historical time and the relationships involved.
The richest man in town seeks and finds a wife through a personal ad. What he gets is a woman with her own agenda. There are back stories and subplots that do tie together eventually. Instead of allowing the sexual tension to build as a natural part of the plot, the author took an in your face approach. When I finished the b
Sarah Mac
I can't do it, y'all. Miserable people are miserable...and this book is determined to discuss every nuance of that misery, which is almost entirely rooted in abnormally high libido. It's just SILLY.

Truly, I've got nothing against unpleasant people as major players in great books. Some of my favorite characters are undeniably obnoxious -- or even villainous. Scarlett in Gone With the Wind. Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Beatrice in Wideacre. Jaime in Game of Thrones. Erzebet in The Blood Co
I am so good at only reading when I have time but this time I stayed up all night, I did not want to put it down, I was captivated from the very beginning and that feeling never went away. Even the ending was as good as the rest of it, and I am convinced that endings are the most difficult part of a book to write.
A lonely wealthy man in Wisconsin advertises for "a reliable wife". His ad is answered, a correspondence ensues and then she finally arrives on the train. But who is she really and what
Dec 23, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
התלבטתי בין כוכב לשניים, בין ספר סתמי לספר רע והחלטתי שהוא סתמי אבל אחרי שכתבתי את הביקורת שלי החלטתי שהוא באמת היה רע ובזבוז זמן משווע.

דווקא בבסיס של העלילה ישנו משהו מעניין, קתרין לנד עונה למודעה בעיתון של גבר עשיר, ראלף טרויט, המחפש אישה אמינה. אחרי התכתבות הוא מזמין אותה אליו והם נישאים.

היא צעירה ויפה, הוא עשיר ומבוגר ממנה והסודות של כל אחד מהם מפעפעים לחיים הזוגיים שלהם.

הביצוע ירוד, גולש למחוזות הזויים ומתמרח עד אין קץ. עיסה דביקה שמקדיחה.

***ספויילרים*** ראו הוזהרתם

מסתבר שקתרין לנד היתה אש
Oct 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Wow. This story was really…..different. I felt conflicted the whole time I was reading it. One minute enjoying it, the next not so much. I knew going into this that it was going to be a dark story. I had read a few reviews beforehand and knew that some people thought it was gratuitous and raunchy. Yeah. There is a HUGE sex theme running throughout the story. And I’m not talking about sweet romance kinda lovin’. It’s raw, in your face, raunchy, and even creepy at times. I thought it was too much, ...more
May 15, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the library because of Sara Gruen's (author of Water for Elephants) comment on the front cover- "Astonishing, complex, beautifully written, and brilliant." Okay, so I haven't read Water for Elephants yet but it's been highly recommended and I have it on my shelf. I figured if Sara Gruen was touting this book, it must be pretty good.

Oh my, it was not what I expected. I have never read those "dime a dozen" romance novels whose covers feature a beautiful woman in a fancy p
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Fiction, wife tries to poison husband... [s] 3 24 Dec 30, 2016 01:22AM  
Play Book Tag: A Reliable Wife / Robert Goolrick - 4**** 5 17 Apr 28, 2016 05:03PM  
A Million More Pages: A Reliable Wife: Jun 13 42 21 Jun 18, 2015 07:10PM  
Sinopsis en Español // Synopsis in Spanish 1 3 Feb 20, 2015 08:49AM  
Review 14 100 Jan 13, 2015 11:47AM  
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Robert Goolrick was born in a small town in Virginia and attended John Hopkins University.

Fired after 30 years in the advertising business, Goolrick wrote his memoir, The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life. A Reliable Wife is his first novel.

Goolrick currently lives in New York City.
More about Robert Goolrick

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“Learning became her. She loved the smell of the book from the shelves, the type on the pages, the sense that the world was an infinite but knowable place. Every fact she learned seemed to open another question, and for every question there was another book.” 70 likes
“If love drove people mad, what would lack of love do?” 32 likes
More quotes…