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Heading Out to Wonderful
by Robert Goolrick

Published: 2012-06-12
Hardcover : 304 pages
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"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 th...
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Introduction

"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"

It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of a few hundred people, nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money.

Finding work at the local butcher shop, Charlie befriends the owner and his family, including the owner's son, Sam, who he is soon treating as though he were his own flesh and blood. And it is through the shop that Charlie gradually meets all the townsfolk, including Boaty Glass, Brownsburg's wealthiest citizen, and most significantly, Boaty's beautiful teenage bride, Sylvan.

This last encounter sets in motion the events that give Goolrick's powerful tale the stark, emotional impact that thrilled fans of his previous novel, A Reliable Wife. Charlie's attraction to Sylvan Glass turns first to lust and then to a need to possess her, a need so basic it becomes an all-consuming passion that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path. 

Told through the eyes of Sam, now an old man looking back on the events that changed his world forever, Heading Out to Wonderful is a suspenseful masterpiece, a haunting, heart-stopping novel of obsession and love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.

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Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

About the Author:

In addition to A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick is the author of the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town.

Review:

Library Journal

Drifter Charlie Beale—toting a cash-stuffed suitcase and a set of premium butcher knives—moves to a small and notably crime-free Southern town. While the bloody writing is on the wall from the beginning, this novel is not a straightforward Southern gothic thriller but primarily a lyrical meditation on the magnified elements of small-town life: friendship, trust, land, lust, and sin. Sylvan, a beautiful hillbilly girl—literally purchased by the town's richest man—has transformed herself into a shimmering imitation of a Hollywood movie star. Her seemingly preordained adultery with Charlie is both condemned and envied by the town. The soul of the story, however, is Charlie's five-year-old companion, Sam, whose parents inexplicably allow him to accompany Charlie everywhere. As a witness sworn to secrecy, Sam is left tragically complicit in the adultery and its consequences. VERDICT Goolrick (A Reliable Wife) creates a timeless town where memory of an affair and crime can haunt forever. A lyrical yet suspenseful novel for general fiction readers.

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