A Reliable Wife

By Robert Goolrick

Book Cover: A Reliable WifeA Reliable Wife is apparently a quintessential workplace “water cooler” book. It was among the books literally stacked on top of the water cooler at my old job, and is one of the books in my new job’s kitchen (though on a table diagonal from the actual water cooler). I had admired the cover (I like the maroon and gray color scheme) and read the back blurb* several times while filling my water bottle, but had been reluctant to read it. It sounded like it could go two different ways, either a high-brow character portrait or a low-brow romance, and I like to at least claim that I don’t enjoy either, though I’ve been known to indulge in both.

I had asked a coworker whether this was an inspirational, love-conquers-all kind of story, and she said no, but I wasn’t entirely sure I believed her. Then, my previous book, the fifth in the Lady Julia Gray series, made me so irritated with romantic leads that I decided I wanted a book with at least the possibility of two people in a relationship scheming against each other until one kills the other (I wasn’t even that particular about who killed who, though I’m usually pretty biased toward the wife).

Anyway, without spoilers, it is not really a love-conquers-all story, though it could perhaps stretch to be interpreted that way. It is a bit of both high-brow and low-brow, and I really enjoyed it! There is lots of character portraiture of the two main protagonists, background to demonstrate how they each got to be at this current point in their lives, interspersed with some fairly unexpected intrigue and deceit. It was not exactly the book I was looking for when I started to read it, but I was quickly engaged and then satisfied with it in the end.

In addition, this book is all about sex. The characters all have sex, talk about sex, imagine having sex, imagine other people having sex, etc. Sex drives most of the characters and their motives most of the time. I’m always kind of on the fence about reading about sex; it often makes me feel uncomfortably voyeuristic. At the same time, it is a fragile story of two very damaged people coming together and trying to do right by each other and themselves, which resonated a bit more for me than all the sex.

P.S. – This book is also ALL about the small tragedies of everyday life, so clearly not for you, Kinsey.

*Here’s the back blurb: “He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for a ‘reliable wife.’ She responded, saying that she was ‘a simple, honest woman.’ She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him slowly and carefully, leaving herself a wealthy widow. What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own.”

—Anna

11 comments on “A Reliable Wife

  1. Rebecca says:

    Would I enjoy this? Your review made me laugh and think it was awesome and that I should read it. Except, like Kinsey, I don’t really like stories that deal with the small tragedies of everyday life. So now I’m undecided.

    Also, the fact that it’s all about sex reminds me that I looked up “50 Shades of Grey” earlier today. Yesterday someone was telling me that this highly pornographic, self-published novel that was making waves. The articles I found were all shocked that any woman, much less so many women, could possibly enjoy a pornographic book that was written by a woman for other women. Shocking! (Personally I found the reviewers’ perspectives more surprising.)

  2. Anna says:

    Hee, I just read a review of “50 Shades of Grey,” and decided it probably wasn’t at all for me, but I’m also a little appalled that reviewers would think that no woman would like that – have these reviewers somehow missed seeing the extensive romance section in any bookstore?

    Anyway, I’m not sure if you would like “A Reliable Wife;” it is really more about the small (and large) tragedies of everyday life. I wouldn’t have said that I like those kind of books, but looking back, I think I do. Although, maybe you would – it is a hard book to pin down. Another book review I ran across described it as a “sexy literary historical potboilder” (http://theroygirlsread.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/a-reliable-wife-robert-goolrick/).

  3. Lori says:

    Thanks to this review I have now retrieved the copy of this book from the top of the water cooler here at work and will give it a try 🙂

    • Anna says:

      That is awesome! (That is actually the copy that I read; I met up with Amanda this weekend and gave it to her to return to the water cooler.) I’ll be very interested to know what you think.

      • Lori says:

        haha! ok, i will let you know in a month or so since it takes me that long to complete a book due to my late adult onset ADD 🙂

  4. Kinsey says:

    Oh, I had this on my library list and after reading your review, took it off. Close call!

    Also, did you know that apparently 50 Shades of Grey started as Twilight fanfic? Or something like that. It’s not completely clear to me, but Jennifer Weiner’s been tweeting about it for days. I should write an entry about Jennifer Weiner on Twitter, because she is great to follow if you want literary gossip.

    • Rebecca says:

      I did read that “50 Shades of Grey” was based on “Twlight,” but the reviewer who wrote that had already demonstrated his idiocy in a couple of ways so that I wasn’t sure if I could believe it or not. If it’s true, that would be pretty awesome.

      You should definitely write an entry on Jennifer Weiner since I’ve never heard of her but I have a twitter account.

      • Anna says:

        I would like to second the request to write an entry on Jennifer Weiner, since I don’t know anything about her. I know I could just google her or whatever, but I’m lazy and I just want you to tell me everything I need to know.

        Anyway, I read that “50 Shades of Grey” was based on “Twilight” fanfic, too, and I guess I could kind of see it – if it was one of those primarily sex fanfics, it isn’t too big a deal to change the names of the characters, since they aren’t based on actual identifying attributes, usually. Just lots and lots of sex.

        I feel like since we’ve had this somewhat lengthy comment discussion on “50 Shades of Grey,” one of us should probably read and review it. (NOT IT!)

        • Rebecca says:

          Hee. I went ahead and downloaded the sample chapter from Amazon. I’ll let you know what I think of it (the sample, not the whole book) later, but the first 300 words already include the main character interaction with a friend and I didn’t want to slap her, so that’s an improvement on Bella.

        • Rebecca says:

          Okay, I’m impressed. The sample consisted of the first two chapters so I can’t say anything too definitive, but that said:

          The writing is reasonably good, but what the author does amazingly well is build a sense of anticipation. Imagine me saying that like in Rocky Horror, “antici… pation.” It’s got it.

          And while I can recognize Bella Swan in Ana Steele and Edward to a lesser extent in Christian Grey, these characters are cohesive and coherent and just significantly better crafted than the Twilight characters.

  5. Lori says:

    As a self-described non-reader I know about Jennifer Weiner because I loved the movie based on her book ‘In Her Shoes’…starring Cameron Diaz,Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine. I plan to start following her on facebook and twitter because she is very witty and I love witty women…writers or otherwise. So let’s all get on the Weiner Wagon! 🙂

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