Friday, August 10, 2012

Heading Out to Wonderful; Robert Goolrick

Author:  Robert Goolrick
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Algonquin
Edition: eGalley
Setting: Virginia
Date Completed: August/2012
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend: yes

Heading Out to Wonderful takes place in the tiny town of Brownsburg, Virginia, population 500 in 1948.  It's a town where no very much happens, where people go about their business, most everyone knows one another and life is simple and relatively peaceful.  It's also a period of time in the South where even a talented seamstress, like Claudie Wiley, an intelligent black woman with plenty of money, knows the protocol of letting the white women get in front of her in line at the local market.

So when a handsome newcomer shows up in town with a couple of suitcases, one with set of butcher knives, imported from Germany, and the other suitcase full of money, he's bound to stand out a bit. The stranger is 39 year-old Charlie Beals.  One day Charlie is a hero in the townspeople's eyes when he saves a young boy from drowning. People welcome him, and given the fact that he worked as a butcher before, he even finds a job with the local butcher Will Haislett. It is here at the market where Charlie meets all of the local people, and becomes a hero-like figure to Will's young son, Sam. Charlie enjoys the boy's company as well, and lets the boy tag along, but a handsome man like Charlie needs some female companionship as well, and when he first sets eyes on a beautiful young girl named Sylvan, he's hooked.

Sylvan Glass is the very young bride of the richest and meanest man in town, Boaty Glass. Boaty purchases his young bride from Sylvan's father knowing his farm is failing and he needs money desperately. Sylvan, has bigger dreams of fancy clothes, is obsessed with Hollywood, movies and a glitzy kind of life.  For Charlie, Sylvan's a girl who deserves all this, and he has the money to buy land and other things for her. However, a pursuit like this seems destined to turn out bad.  The two begin an intense affair -- witnessed by a little boy (Sam) who doesn't understand what is going on.

The story is told by Sam, who is now an old man, recalling his childhood and the sadness surrounding it. It's a story of love, betrayal and the vulnerability of children. The story is dark and foreboding, and is told in a way that compels the reader to read a few pages more than they planned and then another few pages as well.  The ending had the WOW factor for me, but some reason I felt like the third person narrator wasn't right for this story.  Although the writing is very good, at least with the audio version, parts felt somewhat sappy at times.  Despite this it is a book worth reading if you don't mind a sad sad story.


  1. I really want to try this author's work - maybe I should try The Reliable Wife first.

    1. I've been meaning to try Reliable Wife (I own it) but it might have to wait a bit. Try it Kathy.

  2. Toon bad it was such a sad novel. It woul be a good one if you are in the right mood.

  3. I don't think I am up to sad books at the moment, but your review does intrigue me.

  4. Yup, you do have to read this in an - up moment:)

  5. I loved his first book so I will read this one for sure. I don't mind sad sad stories....looking forward to this one.

  6. I like the sound of the plot but it frustrates me when authors don't quite get the narrators right. Like you, I own Reliable Wife, I think I'll try that one first.

  7. What an interesting reaction! His next book, by the way, is a "prequel" to this one.

  8. I found The Reliable Wife fascinating and it sounds like Goolrick has crafted another book in a similar fashion. I'm sure I'm going to have to give this one a read.

  9. I don't think I will be reading this one, as Goolrick is just not an author that I trust after reading his first book. It does sound like a sad and compelling story, but I am just not ready to let myself fall into his tale after my first experience with him. I am glad that this was a moving story for you.

  10. I do plan on reading this one at some point. The story reminds me of the movie Picnic with William Holden. Stranger comes to town, etc.

  11. I was wondering about this book. Hm. Not sure I'm the right reader, ha. I appreciate your review, Diane.

  12. I received an unrequested copy of this book awhile back, and I'm glad I didn't pass it on like I usually do with those surprise books. Sounds like his work is worth giving a try. Great review!

  13. Goolrick is getting to be quite an expert on sad, sad endings!


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