A Reliable Wife

  • by Robert Goolrick
  • Narrated by Mark Feuerstein
  • 8 hrs and 58 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Robert Goolrick's riveting debut novel is both foreboding and sensual. When a wealthy man first meets his mail-order bride in 1907, he realizes this statuesque beauty is anything but a "simple missionary's daughter." But he doesn't know of her devious plan to leave Wisconsin as a rich widow. Nor does she know of the furious demons he longs to unleash during the lonely months of snowbound isolation.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Stinging needles of snow plunge rural Wisconsin into isolating despair as this erotic psychological thriller unravels in the autumn of 1907. Wealthy businessman Ralph Truitt, remote and severe, awaits his dowdy mail-order bride on a gloomy railroad platform, too restrained even to shiver in public. "I am a simple honest woman," she has written him.
When glossy-haired Catherine Land, his young wife-to-be, slips off the train, she collapses Ralph with her unexpected beauty and stillness. Ralph, in turn, shatters Catherine with his growly security and kindness. Each is deceiving the other. Tony Moretti, Ralph's ruthless estranged son, eventually sinks their schemes. A Reliable Wife is Gothic suspense, so secrets leak, blood spills, arsenic drips, and past wrongs are avenged.
Novelist Robert Goolrick knots chilling plot twists with ruined characters. Brittle Catherine buries her depraved adulthood by cloning the "manners of her fellow travelers exactly", down to cleaning her own hairbrush so maids will remark on her good breeding. She holes up in public libraries and steams through encyclopedias and card catalogs, collecting facts for her reinvention as a virginal missionary's daughter. Ralph punishes his roaring sensuality with ice water and listless dinner parties. He is a joyless grind. Love, meanwhile, bores Tony with its "lack of event...the same steady heartbeat".
Mark Feuerstein narrates A Reliable Wife in hypnotic murmurs to resist competing with Goolrick's lush, poetic language and explicit sexual dialogue. He bundles his velvety reading voice into a steady purr, lulling and tranquilizing against overwrought subtexts of hysteria. Feuerstein is unhurried, though never halting. He chronicles Catherine and Ralph's broken tangle with unadorned inflections and conspiratorial silences. Feuerstein invests his characters with authentic hearts, even if they, themselves, are not in true possession of one. —Nita Rao

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What the Critics Say

"A sublime murder ballad that doesn't turn out at all the way one might expect." (Kirkus Reviews)
"This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

skin like oiled earth

Ever wonder what a book would be like if there were no good guys, where everyone was not only flawed, but down right nasty ugly? This is it. Every character in this book is mean and nasty. They care for no one but themselves and I did not care for any of them. I listened to four and a half hours and could not listen to any more. The farther along the book went, the more I hated every single character in the book.

The book is filled with lots of imagery and prose like a woman whose skin is like oiled earth.

This is the punk music of literature.
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- Jim "The Impatient"

Intriguing story but only average writing

The premise of this book is very interesting (I'd sum it up as "sexual sociopaths in turn of the century Wisconsin"), as is much of the detail the author imagines for the characters, however it's clear that a more capable writer would have delivered a far more compelling story: there are a number of inconsistencies in the story where a character thinks or acts as if they don't know some crucial detail about another character, only to have it revealed later that they knew all along. It happens with enough frequency in the story as to be distracting and ultimately to make conclusion of the book pretty clumsy.

That said, it's a good read, er, listen and is well narrated. For pure escapism you could do worse. Be prepared for a lot of rather explicit and not always savory sex -- the author seems to be downright obsessed.

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- R. Law

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-15-2009
  • Publisher: Recorded Books