A sweltering Sunday here in southwest Florida, but of course I expected nothing less in the middle of June. Once again I bow down in gratitude to the inventor of air conditioning ~ I am eternally grateful.
I’m smack dab in the middle of two absolutely marvelous books. Here’s how that happened…I was two thirds of the way through So Much For That, Lionel Shrivers latest novel which stares square into the eyes of the cost of living (literally). But then it was time to get on the plane, and I’ve sort of forsworn traveling with actual books since I discovered the joys of traveling with an e-reader. So, loaded up and ready to read was The Reliable Wife. Though I was dying to find out how Shriver’s novel was going end up, I decided to leave it behind for the few days I’d be gone.
(Speaking of the e-reader, you might recall I had some difficulty with my Sony device a while back. After I downloaded the latest update to the software, it refused open on my computer. It’s still not working on my Sony computer, however, it works just fine on my husband’s Toshiba laptop. Nothing Sony support advised has corrected the problem, including de-installing the entire program, which meant I lost the books I had already downloaded. Thankfully I had read all of them, but still…At any rate, the whole experience has made me extremely wary, and has cemeted my resolve to stick to physical books except when traveling, at which time I will arm my reader with a few titles from the library to last me through the trip.)
Enough about my less than reliable e-reader. Back to books, particularly The Reliable Wife, which was nothing like I expected. This quasi- gothic tale of Ralph Truitt and the woman who answers his advertisement for a “reliable wife” is brim full with longing and desire and flat out passion. Amidst the stark setting of an early 20th century Wisconsin winter, the pent up emotions of Truitt and Catherine Land burn like a bonfire in the wilderness. There is little of purity in their relationship, for each comes to the other with dark secrets and a horrific hidden agenda, yet the love that develops between them seems the only beacon of hope in an otherwise grim and hopeless reality.
What drives Truitt and Catherine is the desire to be loved, to belong to someone, the dream of family long lost to them. Truitt desperately seeks his son, a young man who is really the product of his first wife’s affair, but upon whom he has affixed all hopes and dreams of a lasting legacy, despite the manner in which he brutalized the boy during his childhood. Catherine’s hope of finding her younger sister Alice and rescuing her from the life of prostitution and poverty into which she has willingly thrown herself, is the anchor to the one happy memory she has of her childhood, a summer afternoon carriage ride with Alice and their parents. It is these dreams that have carried Truitt and Catherine thus far, dreams that no amount of wealth seem to assuage.
There is an unremitting sense of darkness in this book, and I find myself inwardly sighing in sadness at the end of these sections, watching these two characters sink into hopelessness. Now, nearing the final third of the novel, a glimmer of hope has arisen, and my eyes have been racing over each page, my heart quickening at the possibility of redemption, perhaps even of happiness. With a tall glass of iced tea and cool breeze from the ceiling fan beckoning, I’m off to find out what happens.