Monday, May 31, 2010

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (audio)

Book Description:
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 terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.

A big disappointment. I didn't care for it at all. Reminiscent of the movie "Days of Heaven" which I liked, but this had none of the poignancy and wistfullness. I had to roll my eyes over much of this novel and the constant preoccupation with sex in all it's flowery glory by the main characters. And I mean constant. All they think of is sex ad nauseum - the longing, the flesh, the passion, the pleasure, blah, blah, blah. Enough already! The romance novels I read with their sensual descriptions of lovemaking are by far better than this sad excuse for literature with erotic overtones - it was laughable.

The gist of the story is a rich man from Wisconsin, Ralph Truitt, advertises for a reliable wife. He is lonely, a widower and would like the companionship (and the unlimited sex) of a wife. He's in his fifties and Catherine answers his ad, they write and she journeys to him from Chicago. Ralph thinks too much - particularly about sex. Catherine is a liar and a schemer and we soon realize she plans on marrying him and then poisoning him. What she doesn't anticipate is she begins to grow fond of him. We learn of his disastrous first marriage to an Italian contessa who used him and has a son by another man, the piano teacher. The son grows up and is beaten repeatedly (by this time his mother is long gone) by his "father." He runs away and assumes another identity of Tony Moretti. For some strange reason to assuage his guilt, Ralph wants his "son" to come home again to Wisconsin, even though he knows the son is not really his son and is a complete wastrel, lazy, good for nothing. Why?? I had no sympathy for Ralph, or anyone else for that matter.

For another unexplained reason, Ralph insists on having his new wife go to St. Louis to bring the son back. Lo and behold, we find out that the son and Catherine have been lovers and the whole plan was cooked up for her to marry his "father" and then poison him so the son, Tony, can inherit everything. Meanwhile, we have to hear all about their thoughts and anticipation of sex, sex, sex! They resume their affair, but Catherine realizes she can't go through with the murder of Ralph once she returns to Wisconsin. Tony, of course, threatens to tell Ralph everything about her wicked past (Ralph thinks she was a missionary) if she doesn't kill him. It was so obvious to me what the only solution was to this problem. And irony of irony, Catherine becomes pregnant - is it Ralph's or Tony's baby? We're led to believe it must be Ralph's, but who really knows?

A waste of my time, I can't understand the rave reviews, just a lot of sexual hooey and wishful thinking with a predictable outcome. The author needed a better editor who wasn't afraid to delete the excessive sexual narratives - it was embarrassing, as if the author was so enraptured with his own thoughts and desires he had to put them down in print for posterity - and frankly, I found it sounded like the fantasies of a sexually frustrated teenage boy.

The narrator, Mark Feuerstein, had a flat and often harsh tone throughout the entire story, which made it nearly impossible to distinguish one character from another, plus they all came across as incredibly unlikeable. I cannot recommend, don't waste your time and if you do decide to read this, don't get the audiobook, sorry I wasted one of my precious Audible points!


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