The only thing that prevented me from giving this book a single star rating is that there were a few decent turns of phrase: "They hated him and they needed him and they excused him" and "She had been adept at the beginning and the ends of things, and now she saw that whatever pleasures life had to offer lay in the middle. She could find some peace there." for example.
Mostly though, I just hated the book. Everything was hyper-dramatically overwritten "Perhaps it was like the soldier's severed arm that keeps throbbing for years, or like a broken bone that aches at the approach of a storm." I could see Goolrick trying so hard at all times, it was just annoying.
In his effort to be "psychological" and "insightful" Goolrick creates characters that are simultaneously one-dimensional and amazingly self aware. Not only do they psycho-anyalyse themselves, but Truitt is willing to reveal his entire life story (including things he has never told anyone else) to a near stranger.
There were also some interior inconsistencies. During the story of the mom-pin-hand episode, Truitt comments that he never loved his mother and then a few pages later talks about how he believed his mother's stories simply because we always believe what we are told by our beloveds. Similarly, at one point during the St. Louis trip Goolrick tells the reader that Antonio never tells Catherine that he loves her (and Goolrick repeats this later when they are all in WI), but he also says, "it wasn't love, no matter how often he might say it." Huh?
I was not surprised that Truitt knew about Catherine's past the whole time. Clearly, when she showed up and was different than he had expected he would have dug into her past. Further, even if he hadn't and he didn't know what she was up to I don't understand why she continues to be afraid of Antonio's threat to reveal her past. After Truitt admits to knowing she is poisoning him (and being completely okay with it), why wouldn't she just come clean? Is it really at all believable anyway that he would okay with her murdering him but NOT OKAY WITH THE FACT THAT SHE USED TO BE A PROSTITUTE? Wouldn't her love for him redeem her? I just thought it was completely ridiculous.
I didn't think the whole Alice episode was necessary at all. I think Goolrick was trying to make Catherine seem more human and multi-dimensional but it was just trite and melodramatic.
Finally, I just wasn't sure about the title. Certainly it could be ironic (Catherine is not the reliable wife she pretends to be). However, Truitt doesn't really want a reliable wife. He is completely accepting of the wife he gets (who turns out to be, but is not originally, much more reliable than his first wife).
Ultimately it just felt like poorly constructed porn. The story was just a vehicle for Goolrick to talk about sexual desire, which is fine in theory but equivalent to the Fifty Shades series in plausibility and quality. Overall it is not worth the effort. The whole thing is trite and melodramatic and rather like a soap opera.