Guest Review of A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

My friend and colleague, Anne Westrick, sent me this wonderful email yesterday, and I thought it would be perfect to share with you all. I will be back blogging in a few days, but in the meantime, enjoy!

“Pam – Last night I finished reading A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick and it occurs to me that I’ve probably been channeling you and your blog for three weeks now—for the whole time that I’ve been picking up and putting down this book. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this book because it’s full of unlikable characters (so I’ll put it down) but prose so compelling, I yearn for it. So I pick it up and continue, all the while bracing myself against this story.

Last night I got to the end and read a paragraph that explains what the whole book is really all about. My telling you this paragraph won’t spoil the story for you, and in some ways, if you know from the beginning that this is what the story will be about, then the story has even greater depth. It’s a story a person could read multiple times, and each time find something new—something s/he had missed on earlier reads. Here’s the part that stopped me cold and brought to mind your blog:

…It was just a story of how the bitter cold gets into your bones and never leaves you, of how the memories get into your heart and never leave you alone, of the pain and the bitterness of what happens to you when you’re small and have no defenses but still know evil when it happens, of secrets about evil you have no one to tell, of the life you live in secret, knowing your own pain and the pain of others but helpless to do anything other than the things you do, and the end it all comes to. (page 280)

That pretty much sums up the theme of A Reliable Wife. The book is not about child abuse. It’s a haunting story of three adult characters and their relationships. But the undercurrents hint at deep and difficult pasts. What the author doesn’t tell you in A Reliable Wife (literary fiction), but does tell you in The End of the World As We Know It (memoir), is that he was sexually abused by his father when he was young, and the abuse has haunted him his entire life. Goolrick is about 60 now. He wrote ad copy for many years and didn’t write his memoir and novel until he was in his fifties. His books became best-sellers because they were written so compellingly, and spoke such truth. You have to wonder how many people are holding onto stories of abuse—secrets they can’t bear to tell the world, or perhaps even admit to themselves…

I just surfed the web for more information about Goolrick, and found an interview with him here in which he says this:

People have a real need to speak, and that’s great to me. If I could get one father to leave one son untouched, if I can get one person who was abused as a child to feel somewhat better about waking up every morning, then the books have done their jobs.

So read Goolrick when you get a chance… and pray that every person who was abused as a child may one day wake up feeling… somewhat better.


Thank you, Anne. I can’t wait to read it!


About pamwatts

Writer, Reader, and Children's advocate
This entry was posted in Guest Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Guest Review of A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

  1. Pingback: A Reliable Wife, Reprise | Strong in the Broken Places

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