Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A man advertises for a reliable wife, but his new bride has secrets of her own.


"A Reliable Wife" by Robert Goolrick is a gripping and intense novel set in 1907, in the small town of Truitt, Wisconsin. The story revolves around the lives of three main characters - Ralph Truitt, Catherine Land, and Antonio O'Connell. The novel is a tale of love, betrayal, and redemption, set against the backdrop of the harsh and unforgiving Midwestern winter.

Brief Synopsis

The plot of "A Reliable Wife" unfolds in the bleak and desolate landscape of the American Midwest during the early 20th century. Ralph Truitt, a wealthy businessman, places an advertisement for a reliable wife to join him in his remote and isolated mansion. Catherine Land, a mysterious and enigmatic woman, responds to the ad, claiming to be the perfect candidate. As Catherine arrives in Truitt, the story takes unexpected twists and turns, revealing the dark secrets and hidden motivations of the characters.

Main Events

1-5Ralph places an ad for a wife. Catherine responds and travels to Truitt.
6-10Catherine arrives at the Truitt mansion and begins to integrate herself into Ralph's life.
11-15Ralph and Catherine's relationship deepens, but secrets and deceptions come to light.
16-20The truth about Catherine's past is revealed, leading to a dramatic confrontation.
21-25Ralph and Catherine confront their feelings and the consequences of their actions.

Main Characters

Ralph Truitt

Ralph Truitt is a wealthy and lonely businessman, scarred by a traumatic past. He is searching for a reliable wife to bring stability and companionship to his life.

Catherine Land

Catherine Land is a mysterious and alluring woman who responds to Ralph's ad for a wife. She arrives in Truitt with a hidden agenda and a troubled past.

Antonio O'Connell

Antonio O'Connell is a charming and charismatic man who becomes entangled in the lives of Ralph and Catherine, bringing further complexity to the story.

Themes and Insights

Love and Betrayal

The novel delves into the complexities of love and the ways in which it can be intertwined with betrayal. Ralph and Catherine's relationship is fraught with both passion and deception, unraveling the deep-seated emotions of the characters.

Redemption and Forgiveness

The theme of redemption is prevalent throughout the novel, as the characters grapple with their past mistakes and seek forgiveness for their transgressions. The narrative explores the possibility of finding absolution and starting anew.

Secrets and Deception

The novel is rife with secrets and deception, as each character harbors hidden motives and concealed truths. The interplay of lies and revelations adds layers of intrigue to the storyline, keeping the reader engaged until the final pages.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Reliable Wife" is a compelling and evocative novel that delves into the depths of human desires and the complexities of relationships. The intricate plot, richly developed characters, and atmospheric setting make for a captivating read that lingers in the mind long after the final page. The novel's exploration of love, betrayal, and redemption offers readers a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant experience.


Robert Goolrick's "A Reliable Wife" is a masterfully crafted novel that skillfully weaves together themes of love, betrayal, and redemption, set against the backdrop of a harsh and unforgiving landscape. The characters' intricate relationships and hidden motivations create a compelling narrative that captivates readers from start to finish. With its evocative prose and deeply human exploration of the human heart, "A Reliable Wife" is a literary triumph that leaves a lasting impression on its audience.

A Reliable Wife FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'A Reliable Wife'?

    A Reliable Wife is a historical fiction novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'A Reliable Wife'?

    The author of 'A Reliable Wife' is Robert Goolrick.

  3. When was 'A Reliable Wife' first published?

    'A Reliable Wife' was first published in 2009.

  4. What is the setting of 'A Reliable Wife'?

    The novel is set in rural Wisconsin in the early 1900s.

  5. What is the plot of 'A Reliable Wife'?

    The novel follows a wealthy widower who advertises for a reliable wife, and the mysterious woman who responds to his advertisement with her own secrets.

  6. Is 'A Reliable Wife' a standalone book or part of a series?

    'A Reliable Wife' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  7. What are some themes in 'A Reliable Wife'?

    Themes in 'A Reliable Wife' include love, betrayal, secrets, and redemption.

  8. Is 'A Reliable Wife' suitable for young adult readers?

    While 'A Reliable Wife' is not specifically classified as a young adult book, older teens may find the themes and character dynamics compelling.

  9. Has 'A Reliable Wife' won any awards?

    Yes, 'A Reliable Wife' won the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.