Bowdoin Reads

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A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick

I find myself drawn to examinations of the outer limits of consumer practices: trafficking in kidneys and other organs, adoption agencies that work as sales agents, mail order marriages. This chilling novel tells of one such “arrangement,” that of Ralph Truitt and his mail-order bride, Catherine Land. Truitt is, on the surface, a staid, turn-of-the-century Midwesterner, a model of comportment in the town he more or less controls as a somewhat beneficent employer. Land, on the other hand, immediately reveals herself as a woman with a less respectable past and a no more respectable agenda. As the novel progresses, we learn more about Land’s agenda, which includes arsenic, and Truitt’s, which is more complex and ultimately, even for Land, seductive. A Reliable Wife is a beautifully written exploration of lust, lies, deceit, and love.

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