Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Winter Blues (Winter Week)

In a continuation of winter reading, I would like to recommend A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. Set in the early 1900s, Ralph Truitt was a lonely man living in seriously cold and miserable Wisconsin.  This was not a hot dating spot.  People apparently went mad at one point or another randomly maiming and killing neighbors, friends and relatives or cutting off their own legs. As the narrator in the book says, "Such things happen.”  Remind me never to go to Wisconsin.  They may have good cheese, but I hear California cows are much happier. Who would sign up to live in that crazy cold place with a complete stranger?  Well, it’s probably not a Sunday school teacher.  Catherine, who answered the ad, came with a bag full of secrets and a few bottles of poison to boot.  Her plan was to become Ralph’s
wealthy widow.  Don’t let the long description at the train station at the beginning of the book scare you off.  It had some of our book club members wondering what they had gotten themselves into. Keep reading. In the end our book club gave it a thumbs-up.

UPDATE:  8-8-17 This book was included in my Little Free Library and I want to thank PRS for giving us the following thoughts on the book after reading it!  "There were times when I felt I would lay this book down and not finishso much sexbut I had to finish. So much passion and life itselfso powerful.  So much imagery and so much truth." PRS

Personally, I can understand why some people would go crazy stuck in snow country like Wisconsin, or even Idaho for a long time. Sure, a little bit of snow especially around
Christmas time can be beautiful.  As I mentioned in the Ethan Frome review, I grew up in Las Vegas, so snow was exciting for me when we first moved to Idaho. We had built a house on six pine-covered acres on a big hill.  When the first snow fell, the kids and I were thrilled.  The kids made a snowman. I happily scooped the driveway and went back into the house exhilarated.  Several hours later, there was even more snow, so I snapped up the shovel and did it again.  My husband was still working in Vegas, commuting back and forth and I was kind of sad that he missed the first snowfall.

The week wore on and more and more snow started falling.  What was fun at first became dangerous when I couldn’t get our minivan up our hill. I couldn’t even get it past the level road that led to our hill.  Little did I know that our 12% grade which doesn’t sound like much, is actually a tremendous angle when covered with snow and ice.  There probably should have been a run-away truck ramp on the hill. But we didn’t even get that far. Too much snow on the private non-maintained road in a front-wheel drive vehicle with no snow tires left me stranded about a quarter of a mile from home—with two small kids.  Still in good spirits we managed to hike our way up the hill. The problem came when we had to hike back down later that evening in the dark to pick my husband up from the airport.

My two-year-old son had smashed his toe a few days earlier
and couldn’t wear a boot on one foot. I had to carry him while my five-year-old daughter hung on to my borrowed jacket for support on the slippery descent. Suddenly, I heard a shwish and a roar. The two big neighbor dogs raced toward us in the dark. I had heard them barking in the past but had never seen them.  They were BIG. I think their names were Cujo and White Fang.  I didn’t know what to do. We stood there like three juicy dog bones.  The dogs kept racing towards us like the running of the bulls and knocked my daughter down in the snow.  She was yelling and screaming, and I started yelling and screaming at the dogs to go home.  The whole valley should have heard us yelling and screaming, but the neighbors apparently had the TV up all the way--or perhaps they were covertly peering through their binoculars, enjoying the dramatic scene that was playing out in front of their driveway.  

Now both kids were crying and I was having a hard time holding my son who was screaming and kicking.  His foot got caught on the borrowed jacket pocket and left a nice rip.  In panic, I kept screaming at the dogs to go home and started waving the flashlight in their faces.  Not a good move.  Cujo and White Fang took offense. They started growling and snarling, showing us their knife-size teeth.  At that point I had visions of being mauled to death. 

I could see foam forming at their evil mouths, and I knew we were dead meat. Then I saw the light.  It was Jesus coming to take us home.  No, wait.  It was the light of a truck coming towards us.  It was our other neighbor, Wayne!  Wayne, with his ever present pipe dangling from his mouth, puffed a few quick ones then piled us in the truck and drove us to safety.  Our hero! 

We made it to the airport on time even though we drove slowly and watched in terror as three other cars slid off the freeway.  There we stood--a sorry bunch.  Two scared and frazzled kids, one stuffed lamby, and one mom with a borrowed, ripped jacket.  And there we waited for over an hour until the delayed plane finally landed.  

Still shaken and angry, I told my husband of our life-threatening ordeal through hot tears before we even got to the parking garage.­ I also told him half-jokingly that if he didn’t get a 4-wheel drive vehicle, he didn’t have to bother coming home again.  Don’t you know, the next day after work, he picked me up in a 4-wheel drive Suzuki Sidekick with four meaty studded snow tires!

Divorce averted.

Happy winter, happy reading!


I’m curious.  What are some good books you’ve read that took place in really cold and wintery settings? Enter a comment or email me at and I will post your answer.

What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:


  1. Strange things DO Happen in Cold Weather!!! And this book proves it! LOL

  2. I think I could live without snow, however not without books,
    love to read the books on the blog.