WHY I READ THIS / NOW: I had originally placed this on my tbr when it was hot on the blogs. I found it on the library sale rack for $3 and couldn’t resist. It sat on my shelf for 3 years when one of my boating friends said she was going to read it this summer. I enthusiastically declared I would join her. When another boating friend asked me what books to read, I told her A RELIABLE WIFE. She suggested we create a Dock Book Club and so our spontaneous club was formed and this book decided upon. We already have at least 8 boaters committed! Cool, huh?
I was loving the first half and then the chapter on the sister threw me off. Was it necessary for me to know about Alyce? The tone seemed to change, get more sinister and less delicious. I became less enamored of the short flowery sentences and now thought them overwrought.
What happened? Why had the first half hooked me fiercely and the second half leave me ‘meh’?
Well, I’m really not sure. But I decided to give this book 3 stars, an average of the 5 star buildup and the 2 star let down slow ride to the finish.
FIRST SENTENCE: “It was bitter cold, the air electric with all that had not happened yet.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Taking place in the winter of 1907, mostly in Wisconsin with a few days here and there in Chicago and St. Louis, a very wealthy man named Ralph Truitt places an ad for a wife. Catherine Land applies as a simple honest woman and immediately is confronted as anything but! Boy howdy, is she NOT. She agrees to help Ralph bring his son back home.
Every character is complex and yearns and lusts and desires. And hides and hates and fails to recognize their own despair. This is not a book of sunshine and flowers, though I did love all the flower descriptions at the same time I wondered if it was overkill.
“Love was gone forever, just outside the window, just beyond reach, like fruit on an upper branch.”
This is a complex read. I have been told that it stays with you; no matter if you liked it or disliked it. You will remember it. GREAT CHOICE for a book club. Books that are both loved and hated generate the best discussions. I seem to be on both sides of that!
The ODDITIES: I was perplexed by the mentions here there and everywhere of everyday violence and outbreaks of madness: fathers killing families, suicides and tragedy. Surely, this little town could not have suffered so. AND THEN FINALLY, at the end of the book, in the BEHOLDEN page which is the author’s Acknowledgements, he mentions being inspired by Michael Lesy’s book Wisconsin Death Trip. I must read this. I think I will have a new appreciation into A Reliable Wife.
“I owe a great deal to Michael Lesy, to his explication of the awful life endured by the mass of people caught between machinery and madness. … (Lesy) unlocks the Pandora’s box of country life to show us its dark and ravaged soul.”
I’m wondering, if I had seen the Lesy book, then read Jill and Ti’s reviews, and THEN read A Reliable Wife, how my experience would be different. Questions which I can never have answered.
“And even though they both knew what the man said was a fiction, Ralph stepped into the dark and opened his arms.”
Reviews in order of high praise to not so much:
You’ve Gotta Read This – (argues that you don’t)