A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick

In his study of three extremely complex characters, Robert Goolrick¬†creates a compelling meditation on love, greed, addiction, passion, death, forgiveness, beauty, wealth, madness, and redemption, set in wintry Wisconsin in the early 1900s. The author does not¬†over-describe, instead leaving the reader to fill in the blanks about the characters’ past and present lives.

Each character has a clear desire, but not everyone in this story can get what he or she wants, and much of the book’s suspense is created as the competing plans unfold. The characters undergo tremendous internal changes over the course of several months, changes that are largely (but perhaps not entirely) believable. Still, there are a few aspects of the plot that are a little too coincidental to be comfortable, and one main character seems a little too good to be true.

This is an engaging book that will leave you thinking about the meaning of parenthood, the rewards of forgiveness, and the nature of love.