I first discovered Robert Goolrick when I read A Reliable Wife. I was captivated by his writing style and his storytelling. (my review) I was eager to read his latest novel - Heading Out to Wonderful.
Charlie Beale rolls into the small town of Brownsburg, Virginia in 1948. Brownsburg is off the beaten path and nothing much happens - life goes on in day to day set rhythms. But the arrival of this stranger and his two suitcases brings change. Charlie has one suitcase full of money and the other full of his butcher's knives. After days spent silently wandering the town, he decides that this sleepy town will become the home he is looking for. He secures a job with the local butcher Charlie, allows Charlie's wife Alma to fuss over him and becomes friends with their five year old son Sam. And with the money, he begins to buy land and a house.
Heading Out to Wonderful is Sam's narrative - told many years later.
"This story actually happened, and it happened pretty much the way I'm going to tell it to you. It's a true story, as much as six decades of remembering and telling can allow it to be true. But I still ask myself sometimes late at night, about what happened, how it all turned out, about the life I've led, you know, everything. I ask myself the same questions they ask me, these people who've only heard about it, who weren't even around when it all took place. What happened and why did it have to happen in the way it did?"
What happened? Charlie Beale saw Sylvan Glass - the young wife of the town's richest man. And that,
my friends was the beginning.....
I love Goolrick's writing style. It is full of opposites, of push and pull. The story is stark, but the language is rich and full. The tale is full of tension, but the journey there is told in a leisurely fashion with eloquent prose that had me stopping, rereading, enjoying and only then moving on to the next page.
Charlie and Sylvan are magnets inextricably attracted and young Sam is witness to all. Goolrick takes his novel places I didn't see coming - the final chapters caught me unawares. Heading Out to Wonderful again explores love, attraction, friendship, betrayal and inevitability. Sam's accounting of things takes on an almost otherworldly, mystic feel, as though we've been allowed to see behind the curtain.
As Charlie says..... "Let me tell you something son. When you're young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand new penny, but before you get to wonderful, you're going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you're ever going to go."
Pick up a copy of Goolrick's book - you'll pass straight by all right and directly on in to wonderful. Highly recommended. Read an excerpt of Heading Out to Wonderful. You can find Robert Goolrick on Twitter.