Last week I bellyached a little about A Reliable Wife, our book discussion group's choice for November. Turns out, this novel held my attention to the last page. The sweeping storyline, filled with twists and coincidences often plays out in soap opera proportions, but the powerful underlying intentions linger. First, this is a chilly story - location, character and deed. The author was inspired by the pervasive and unexplainable insanity during a grueling Wisconsin winter as chronicled in Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip. I remember attempting to watch a documentary based on the book, but found it too disturbing.
So, there's the weather situation. That, and the isolation that it causes, combine with three of the coldest characters I have ever found in a novel. Catherine hopes to put her lurid past behind by marrying a rich man and ultimately poisoning him. Ralph contracts a mail order bride to help him in any way necessary to locate his prodigal son. Ralph needs to soothe his conscience. He expects to be forgiven for allowing his first wife to die, and for beating his son. The son, Antonio desires only to see his father dead.
There are attempts at redemption, but the intensity of the individual's need is so twisted that redemption is impossible. I can see how their back stories could arouse sympathy is some readers, but for me, each had ample opportunity to walk away from the evil they created. Instead, they chose to pursue it with a vengeance.
There's more to say, but doing so could give away too much of the plot, and I want you to discover that on your own. I stand by last week's observation that the author, Robert Gooldrick, does not have a soft spot for women. That aside, his writing lured me in page after page. It is melodious, intelligent, and crafty. There is little dialogue. And although I love dialogue, this did not bother me. He fills his narrative passages with commentary on character's angst, cynicism and internal conflicts. With great clarity, he shows us the workings of hedonistic, evil minds. At times, he almost convinced me to take sides with one of the three, and that's a scary thought. But, as Gooldrick tells his readers time and time again...these things happen.
*****Here I am on my Saturday adventure. An unnamed friend (UF from here on out...you'll understand the anonymity in a few sentences) and I set out for a Chicago trade show at about 7 A.M. The day began with my alarm failing to go off at 6:15, as planned. Instead, there was frantic doorbell ringing and door pounding to alert me that we were off schedule.
The show was at the Chicago Hilton. Real fancy! I made a few contacts, placed a small order, and had great pizza with a sales rep. In the parking lot, I was called a racist by a panhandler. He mentioned, in a pretty hostile manner, that if it had been nighttime, he would have kicked my *&@.
Now the adventure begins. UF and I walked up Michigan Avenue for a while, but that's just not my style. (Did I mention it was 70 degrees?!) Instead, we headed to Old Town, an artsy, more bohemian neighborhood where I knew I would feel comfortable. The streets in OT are lined with art galleries, coffee shops, vintage stores...colorful friendly, casual. I picked all that up as we drove up one street and down another. "So, are we stopping?" I asked. The answer was abrupt and confusing. "No, I don't know how their parking system works. They don't have meters. They have boxes on corners."
We drove off. Real fast. I pouted. UF drove. Real fast. Heading home. Suddenly, we took the Lake Forest exit. Once again, I was happy. This is a neat community with a train depot in the middle of town, and a strip of stores worth exploring. The Boy Scouts were celebrating Halloween in a mid-town park, and there was happiness everywhere. For a while.
Suddenly, UF announced, "You stay here.,, I'll be back in a few minutes." What was I to do? It all happened so fast. UF was gone, and I was alone on a park bench in front of a bookstore (great location) that was about to close. As a matter of fact, everything was closing and the temperature was dropping. Fast. UF did not even toss my jack out of the car upon leaving. So I sat on the cold metal park bench. ((See picture). After about 20 minutes of bone chilling wind, and a bench that showed no signs of warming, I moved to the edge of a concrete planter, thinking it may have soaked up some of the 70 degree heat. Wrong.
At this point, I started worrying., Where was UF? Had I been abandoned. Was there some sort of Twilight Zone fugue state thing happening? What would I do? How would I get home? Notice, there was no concern for UF. That came later. I am sure my brain was freezing along with my butt, and I was alone. Everyone cleared out quickly. After forty-five minutes, I launched my plan. I would call the police, telling them about UF knowing full well I had no proof that UF even existed. I knew the type of car we would be looking for, but not the license number, make or model. (I know what you're thinking. NO. I do not have a cell phone.) To make matters worse, UF uses a number of different name forms on documents...not aliases...just sometimes a full first name, other times a common nickname, still other times a first initial and middle name...of boy, I knew that could mean trouble. Who would believe me? Than name business has a Bonnie and Clyde vibe to it.
Just then, I saw it...the little car came around the corner and out jumped UF. When I opened my door, I saw it. p It appears as if UF had opened a pharmacy The floor was filled with opened packages of Imodium. A half consumed bottle of the pink stuff...Pepto...lay on the floor, UF caressed a container of Kaopectate. Things became real clear, and there's not much more to tell...you can figure it out... except that UF and and the bathrooms at Burger King and Walgreen's had become intimate friends. Some intestinal nastiness was messing with UF, beginning shortly after we arrived in Chicago. And that is the story of my whirlwind trip to the big city. These things happen.
This is the annual Halloween photo of the beast waiting for trick-or- treaters yesterday.
What am I reading? May holiday novel was an old suspense tale called Dragonwyck by Anna Seton. It has a governess, a weird uncle, a creepy housekeeper, a cold-hearted little girl...all living in a big house lit by candles. It's all very Bronte-esque.
I also dug into Life by Keith Richards...he's the Rolling Stone who is not Mick Jagger. I figure, if I'b goikng to read a celeb bio, it shoud be one filled with danger, craziness, fist fights, diva-like behavior and a few mentions of Johnny Depp. Isn't it silly that Richards can pen a 600+ page book and the only title he can come up with is Life?
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