Monday, August 17, 2009

Be careful what you wish for

I was on vacation in Wisconsin earlier this month and was inspired to read a novel set there, A reliable wife by Robert Goolrick. The story reminded me of Whistling Season by Ivan Doig which also featured a mail order wife arriving on a train in the 19th century. The Whistling Season was told from the point of view of the son of the man who needed housekeeping assistance. It was a sunny book that made you want to have the kind of one room schoolhouse education the narrator had. Yes, the woman had a big secret and guess who discovers it. It is well worth the read.

The sun doesn't make an appearance in A reliable wife. The story opens with a humiliating wait by the man at the train station followed by a violent, nearly fatal accident in the ice and snow on the way home. Winter darkness just doesn't leave in this book. Her secret is a dark tale of violence and a love that makes her do bad things. He also has secrets in spite of his blunt honesty with her in the beginning. Goolrick was inspired by a cult classic, Wisconsin Death Trip which makes you happy that you didn't live out in the unsettled west in the 19th century.

posted by mb