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Editorial 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

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.
©2009 Robert Goolrick; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Reliable Wife

I thought this was a beautiful book. It was a mystery - and it did in did dig deep into the characters past, present and maybe future. It was the old story good versus evil that live within us all. It was a story of forgiveness - of others an of oneself. The words were musical and the narrator's cadence was perfect. I could not stop listening to it. It gets an A from me - it has been a long time since I have heard such a good book.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Strange but lovely

This book is for lovers of "literary fiction" (things like Ian McEwan though this is a much smaller scale); it's not for those looking for a mystery/thriller. The flawed protagonists drew me in and the end was satisfying.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I can't imagiine having enjoyed this book as much if I had read rather than listened to this book. Mark Feuerstein's poetic, sensuous , mesmerizing reading pulled me in, lured me to complete the story, amde me feel the desolation, the isolation, the human need for contact and love in the midst of loneliness. I will carry the message of forgiveness with me long after hearing the last word read.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • kerie
  • keizer, or, United States
  • 01-03-10

Story of Forgiveness

I really enjoyed this story. The roles each person plays in different and complex. They all had hardships in life and strived for a better life despite the adversity. Some became a better person in the end and others did not. I really enjoyed listening to the role of Ralph. He has many ways of forgiveness that we take for granted. He does display how we are all imperfect, we all make mistakes, we all thrive for love, and that happy ending. I thought is was beautifully written. Sad, yet lovely in its own way.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent book and Excellent narrator!

This was a book that I was not excited about when our book club chose it. When I started to listen to it, I was riveted from about the first five minutes. Mr. Goolrick did an outstanding job of weaving a story with characters that are painted exquisitely. Mr Feuerstein is one of the best narrators I have heard. I have been listening to audiobooks for about eight years. Thank you, Mr Goolrick for an exceptional book, and for choosing the perfect person to narrator. - J. Perrone, Pittsburgh PA

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

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.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sharon
  • Camarillo, CA, United States
  • 06-04-09

Don't rely on the jacket (a great book)

It looks like you either love or hate this book, and I am one who loved it. I purchased it because I expected to read an interesting cat and mouse game between two devious people. It is not. As someone already mentioned, this is a character study and quite a bit about redemption and whether one can atone for or outrun the past. I will not tell you whether the answer is yes or no, but I will tell you I cared deeply about the characters and how the story was going to turn out at several points along the way and barely restrained myself from fast forwarding to find out. You may call some aspects of the story line predictable, but I found the resolution completely satisfying. I highly recommend this book.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Felicia
  • Burnaby, BC, Canada
  • 04-18-10

Simply adequate

The story itself is intersting but gets overshadowed by the overly descriptive language and detail. At points you just want to say "get on with it". I also feel the author's tone is not consistent through out. In some places it seems classically written and in others, slang is used when the "proper" words are expected. It's a short read/listen but I would not recommend it.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michele
  • Grand Terrace, CA, USA
  • 01-09-10


This is the first review I've felt compelled to write although I have listened to many books. Whoever described the narration as "Petulant barking" was exactly on point. The narrator ruins a story that might have had considerably more charm with a better reader. Aren't there editors or someone to say, "hey, hold up there!You sound like you're barking petulantly!!" Well, I fast forwarded to the end,listening to bits and snatches to get the drift and if it had been a book instead of my beloved Ipod I woulda thrown it in the trash. Terrible.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Mayb
  • 10-09-15

Narrator is awful

Plot is ok but author is far too melodramatic and long in their description of everything, making the characters unrealistic and ridiculous at times.
Narrator is awful so monotone and depressing.
Glad this book was one of my free choices as I would not have liked to pay to hear it. How can it be compared to Wuthering Heights or Rebecca I do not know? Something I read when I searched for similar stories to those and it came up with this one.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful