Monday, August 2, 2010

A Reliable Wife By: Robert Goolrick

    I swung by Bookshleves of Doom for my daily dose a few days ago, and came across Leila's review of A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. I saw the word "Potboiler" pop up in that review and wondered what it meant. Well, after meeting the definition I wondered why anyone would read a book that was described as a Potboiler? And along these same lines if you were singing praises for it why would you describe it as

                                                           -The Boston Globe
 I mean am I right to come to the conclusion that the term Potboiler isn't exactly a compliment? Anyways, I then  saw that Leila said she went into work the next day after reading the book and couldn't stop talking about it. Well then, if it had Leila talking about it all day at work, of course I had to read it. 
    Ralph Truitte stood in the freezing cold waiting for the train. It was late and he was impatient. His face and body gave nothing away, not his disappointment nor embarrassment he felt as it seemed the entire town sat there starring at him.  A women had answered his add in the Chicago post asking for a "reliable  wife". In fact a lot of women had, but only one stood out to him. "I am a simple honest woman..." the letter had said.  However, as the woman Ralph came to pick up stepped off the train two things became immediately clear. Looking at her face she was anything but "simple", and well since it wasn't the woman in the picture he held in his pocket, it would seem she was anything but honest as well.
He looked at her without warmth or welcome.
"This begins in a lie. I want you to know I know that."

    If you think this is some kind of simple, predictable love story you are in for a rude awakening. A cold, dark, twisted awakening.  Reading this book felt like I was back in my AP Lit class in high school. Like there were soon to be discussions and questions and a whole lot of parallels drawn. Like there were deeper meanings behind every relationship in the book and a whole lot more layers underneath everything else. And all these things kept circulating in my mind with every turn the novel took. One things for sure, Potboiler would be the last thing on earth I would use to describe this book. (poor quality of work hurriedly put together for profit? phhh I beg to differ)

    Goolrick's prose were beautiful, his vivid descriptions of Mrs. Larson's dishes were delectable, and oh the contrast between the old house and the luscious home Ralph built for his first wife made me swoon.  The entire work was deeply atmospheric, the cold contrast between Wisconsin and the glowing city of Saint Louis, Ralphs recollections of his youth, his travels, the descriptions of the libraries and books Catherine lost herself in, the hidden garden and the lists, all of it pulled you in and added to the richness of the piece. The plot was filled with chutes and ladders and a whole lot of twists, that had me reeling and saying say what?! 

    The characters were complex in their own way and real with their flaws and inadequacies. Although because the voice was omniscient it was hard for me to really feel close to any of the characters. With each of the characters it was more of a knowledge of their feelings, a description of them than a feeling of their feelings, does that make sense? The book itself is quite sensual, without being graphically Harlequin-esque, in fact at times it's quite chilling.
He wanted to slice her open and lay inside the warm blood of her body
    That was one of the times that the breaks screeched and I was like, say what?! Along with passages that talked about the town's people waking up one morning and killing their wives, eating books, and killing their sons, well because, Such things happen. (There's a phrase you'll be all too familiar with before the end of the book.) Ralph Truitt is older, a lot older than Catherine and yet his lusts seem to shine bright as if he were still a teenage boy. I wondered to myself is this realistic? As I was paging through the back pages of the book Goolrick addresses this in the interview.

     The most interesting question came from a young man in his thirties who asked me to discuss the relationship between love and aging. We think when we're young that, as we get older, our passions and enthusiasms will fade, will lose their hold on us, and we will enter into some more gentle phase. I don't find it to be true. Our passions, in fact, intensify, like a sauce that has been reduced to its essence by a long slow simmering over a low flame.

     Goolrick mentions Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip as one of the major inspirations for his novel. The book no doubt held my interest, I finished it in one sitting and then sat there pondering. I liked the book.  I'm not completely head over heals about it, but one things for sure, it lingered with me, it makes me want to talk about it. I thought of John Steinbeck on a few occasions as I was reading. Leila thought of DuMaurier's Rebecca. What are your feelings? Am I just a weird potboiler lover?

   In Favor--
    Estella's Revenge
    The Roy Girls Read
    The Book Lady's Blog
    Booking Mama
    Dolce Bellezza

Not so much/or somewhere in the middle---   
Mere Musings
Lola's Reviews


Andi said...

I read and reviewed this one a while back, and while I had some issues with it (the lusting got tiresome after a while), it did stick with me, and I still think about it often. That's probably one of the highest compliments I can give a book.

Definitely wouldn't label this one a potboiler.

Glad to have found your blog!

KIKA said...

Andi! I was just over at you blog busily reading your favorite author post with the blogger hop and your review for this book!

LOL and I came back to link your review here and comment on yours to see that you already beat me here!

Yes while there were some issues (oh yes the lusts!) it stuck with me too! so glad I found your blog too!

Andi said...

LOL, too funny! We're playing ring-around-the-blogs this morning. :D

Bonnie said...

I have this in my TBR pile because my sister said she liked the book. That quote from the book was quite chilling!

Love your new look, Bonnie

KIKA said...

ooo Bonnie I'd love to hear what you thought of it! this book is an interesting one because I completely get both sides of the coin, so I'll keep my eye out for your review!

and thanks! LOL just fiddling around with different things, seeing what I like and what not :)

Shannon (Giraffe Days) said...

You've actually made me really want to read this! I didn't know what it was about, but I love a confronting, even squeamish read! Great review Kika!

Stop by my blog: I have an award for you!

Meg said...

Your review of this one is the first to make me want to actually grab the book! I've read mixed reactions from around the blogosphere, but think I would like it! And omniscient narration usually keeps me at a distance, too. I'd always rather have a story told from one person's perspective.

KIKA said...

Shannon: LOL I'd love to hear what you though of it! Thanks Shannon it's always good to see you stop by, and thanks for the award! You're too sweet :)

Meg: Yes I've heard all across the board as well! I'd love to see what you thought of it, and I completely agree with you on the narration.