My friend, Ruth, posted an enlightening and insightful comment about Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife in which she elucidates the subtle but singular light she found at the end of the novel. Amidst all of the discussion across several blogs and comment threads, Ruth’s analysis shines brightly and casts at least the end of the novel in a favorable light. The difficulties are still present, and I stand by my critique of the problems the novel presents. As a follow-up to our Literary Wives Discussion of the novel, I showcase Ruth’s comment here as a worthy perspective on the light, or moment of grace, at the end of A Reliable Wife. It is something one must dig for, certainly, but this light is crucial to a work of literary art and, as Ruth writes it, is an important and meaningful accomplishment. Thank you, Ruth, for finding and taking the time to articulate the bright spots!
Although this wasn’t my kind of book, Angela, and I can quite see why you didn’t finish it, I did manage to get to the end. I’m actually glad I did make it to the end as there was a little ‘light’ there. As you say, there are a number of difficulties, but as I have a bit of a policy not to say negative things about writers, I’ll offer this thought on the conclusion and the title. I felt there was redemption, after a fashion, for both Catherine and Ralph by the end of the book, but Catherine in particular. I thought it telling her comment on pg 286: ‘She had agreed to marry him without realizing that marriage brought a kind of simple pleasure, a pleasure in the continued company of another human being, the act of caring, of carrying with you the thought of someone else.’ That Catherine made it to this place, after all that had gone before is redemption and grace I think. It seems a simple thing to know and understand, but the fact that this was new to her shows the terrible place she was in. Her creation of the garden is also telling. Plants represent renewal, beauty, things that need care and cherishing and this becomes her focus. She travels the farthest in the book I think, because she had the farthest to travel. Maybe in this sense she does then become ‘A Reliable Wife.’ The parameters of the novel are so far from the norm that I think it’s impossible to compare with normal life. But in terms of her life, she definitely makes some positive progress.The characters are all deeply damaged, though, and, as such, it’s not a pleasant read!