Love that lived beyond passion was ephemeral. It was the gauze bandage that wrapped the wounds of your heart. It existed outside of time, on a continuum that couldn’t be seen or described. Ralph thought of Catherine during the day with a mixture of love and fear, but he found himself content that she would be there when evening came. (p. 253)
I loved this book. I read it slowly, painfully slowly, not wanting to miss a single nuance or a single revelation that showed us a new side of each character or a new twist of plot. It is a magnificent book, beautifully written, the kind that makes the one you pick up immediately after seem shallow and unimportant.
From the minute I began the first page, standing with Ralph Truitt in the Wisconsin winter waiting for his wife to arrive by train, I was hooked. When his bride sheds her red velvet suit and shoes, throwing them from the train window in exchange for a simple black dress into which she has sewn her jewels, I am intrigued. The story never let up from there. I was drawn to the characters’ lives, their thoughts, their surprising actions, like a moth to light. I could not extricate myself from them, nor did I want to.
But, I do have a question. Why A Reliable Wife for the title? Why not A Reliable Husband? For it was Ralph I loved. Constant, patient, heartbroken Ralph, who recognized his flaws and sought with all his might to make recompense.
Or, why not call it An Unreliable Son? For Antonio has the same flaws, but no ability or desire to rise above them.
And loving them both is Catherine, who leaves Saint Louis to meet the man whose ad she had answered one winter night in 1907.