A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
This was a very interesting read. Sometimes disturbing in content sometimes too repetitive in emotional descriptions, but captivating nonetheless.
The story is told in three parts. The time is winter 1906. The main location is frozen, barren Wisconsin. The "feel" is England, circa "Oliver Twist."
Mr. Truitt, a wealthy widower consumed with his loneliness, mistakes of the past, and his abhorrent sexuality, advertises for a reliable wife. Catherine, an aging courtesan, responds to his ad representing herself as a simple and honest woman. It's obvious at once when they meet that she is not who she pretends to be, but she carries out the charade, marries him and plans his death so she can inherit his fortune.
Mr. Truitt reveals his ugly secrets to Catherine and makes her an implicit part of trying to amend his past. He sends her off to St. Louis to bring his lost son home to him.
There are some nice twists in the story and despite my annoyance at the repetitive nature of some of the writing, I think it ultimately provides the feel the author wants the reader to experience of the desperation of the characters. Through the twists and turns I felt hopeful for these characters, despite their ugly pasts. I found myself wishing for the happy fairy tale ending and then feeling it too far gone to be reached. The author ultimately brought to life characters that have worked their magic on me and made me care for them and continue to think of them long after the last pages have been devoured.