In A Reliable Wife, something is going to happen. There's no doubt about that. The question, however, is what?
Well, let's just say that even if it's what you think it is, it's not — not in the hands of Robert Goolrick.
James Truitt is a private man in a small town, where everyone knows everything. Every winter, people succumb to the slow madness of the blinding snow and numbing cold.
He advertises for a wife in a big city newspaper. He receives a number of replies, and he chooses one — Catherine, a plain woman who calls herself "simple" and includes her photo.
Only the woman who steps off the train is not the same woman in the photo.
Catherine is in the wilds of the Midwest at the turn of the 20th century for her own reasons. You know she is up to something almost from the beginning — and after the first few moments Truitt and Catherine are together, you wonder exactly what it is.
Goolrick has an amazing way of blending the story of two people, their lives apart and together, into a deftly tight tapestry of color and texture. Neither is what they appear to be, and yet they cannot be more than themselves. Until....
This story captures the endless winter of the Midwest in great detail, the isolation yet stifling connectedness of a small town, the loss and regret, the hope and anticipation, the surprising willingness to change and be changed.
The characters are vivid and crisp, their stories are bleak but hopeful, sad yet tinged with possibility, colorful yet monochromatic to themselves and their discouragement. I saw possibility in the first chapter and was hopelessly hooked by the second. I had no choice but to see the story through. Just when I thought I was clever (and I was, at least about the storyline), the author tossed in a few curves.
In the end, you will be satisfied by the story and characters, the setting and the surprises — and the parts you knew would happen like that after all.