There is a  gothic feel to this book, such as Rebecca or the Thirteenth Tale - A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife

By Robert Goolrick

PBR Book Review:

I stayed up late a few nights reading this beautifully written book; it was hard to put down. The story is intense and Goolrick's writing style is powerful; a dynamic combination that will seriously hook you. His descriptions of the remote, cold and snowed in Wisconsin country are vivid with just the right amount of detail; enabling you to empathize with it's residents and their isolated life.

The story flows beautifully and as the plot deepens the characters become more complex, you just want to keep reading to discover the outcome. There is a touch of mystery but the tension the author builds is what keeps you turning the pages. Throughout the novel, the author delves into many facets of human nature; lust, loneliness, evilness, greed, madness, love, hatred and forgiveness to name just a few. These will make for great discussions topics if you are a book club. It's a little dark, but a bold first novel by this author that you'll want to recommend to your friends.

Book Club Talking Points:

The intense writing style is what makes this book stand out and will also stimulate conversation for book clubs. The characters are all well developed and terribly flawed. Their actions consistently anger, confuse and surprise; all of which flow together for some healthy discussion. The basic needs of human beings and the measures one takes to satisfy them, as well as the desperation that accompanies loneliness and grief are also threads that will stimulate conversation. In general, readers seem to either love or hate this book, maybe due to the dark undertone or some of the circumstances and actions which defy logic. It will appeal to book clubs that enjoy well written character driven stories.
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*Discussion Questions

1.The novel.'s setting and strong sense of place seem to echo its mood and themes. What role does the wintry Wisconsin landscape play? And the very different, opulent setting of St. Louis?

2.Ralph.'s and Catherine.'s story frequently pauses to give brief, frequently horrific glimpses into the lives of others. Ralph remarks on the violence that surrounds them in Wisconsin, saying, "They hate their lives. They start to hate each other. They lose their minds, wanting things they can.'t have." How do these vignettes of madness and violence contribute to the novel.'s themes?

3.Catherine imagines herself as an actress playing a series of roles, the one of Ralph.'s wife being the starring role of a lifetime. Where in the novel might you see a glimpse of the real Catherine Land? Do you feel like you ever get to know this woman, or is she always hidden behind a facade?

4.The encounter between Catherine and her sister Alice is one of the pivotal moments of the novel. How do you view these two women after reading the story of their origins? Why do the two sisters wind up on such different paths? Why does Catherine ultimately lose hope in Alice.'s redemption?

5.The idea of escape runs throughout the novel. Ralph thinks, "Some things you escape... You don.'t escape the things, mostly bad, that just happen to you." What circumstances trap characters permanently? How do characters attempt to escape their circumstances? When, if ever, do they succeed? How does the bird imagery that runs through the book relate to the idea of imprisonment and escape?

6."You can live with hopelessness for only so long before you are, in fact, hopeless," reflects Ralph. Which characters here are truly hopeless. Alice? Antonio? Ralph himself? Do you see any glimmers of hope in the story?

7.Why, in your opinion, does Ralph allow himself to be gradually poisoned, even after he.'s aware of what.'s happening to him? What does this decision say about his character?

8.Why does Catherine become obsessed with nurturing and reviving the "secret garden" of Ralph.'s mansion? What insights does this preoccupation reveal about Catherine.'s character?

9.Does Catherine live up in any way to the advertisement Ralph places in the newspaper (p. 20)? Why or why not?

10.Did you have sympathy for any of the characters? Did this change as time went on?

11.At the onset of A Reliable Wife the charactersare not good people. They have done bad things and have lived thoughtlessly. In the end how do they find hope?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)

Book Summary
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.

With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.
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