Heading Out To Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publish Date: June 12, 2012
Source: Finished Copy from publisher
An attractive and enigmatic stranger -- Charlie Beale, a loner recently home from the war in Europe -- wanders into the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of only a few hundred people nestled in the Valley of Virginia. He brings with him two suitcases: one contains all his worldly possessions, including a set of butcher knives; the other is full of money.
Charlie quickly finds a job at the local butcher shop and through his work there meets all the townspeople, most notably Sam Haislett, the five-year-old son of the shop's owner, and Sylvan Glass, the beautiful, eccentric teenage bride of the town's richest man. What no one anticipates is how the interaction of these three people will alter the town forever, and how the passion that flares between Charlie and Sylvan will mark young Sam for life.
Told through the eyes of Sam, now an older man looking back on that time, this much-anticipated second novel from Robert Goolrick is an exciting, erotically charged, and altogether unforgettable story of love gone terrible wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen. –(summary from Goodreads)
Heading Out to Wonderful
by Robert Goolrick
My Thoughts: Before going any further, you guys have to know that I am a huge fan of Robert Goolrick. I've never read another author quite like him - with the ability to take a character and make it such a real person. His characterization is completely unparalleled to me and I am in love with his work. When I read A Reliable Wife a while back, I knew - I knew - Goolrick would be on my instant-read list based on that work alone.
When I am reading a book that I know I'm probably going to love, I like to read it slowly. So I read this one bit by bit over the course of four weeks. It was so hard not to tear through it in one day, but it was much too good to do that. Next time I read it, maybe I will. But I read this one slowly - page by page, piece by piece - kind of like you eat the best piece of cheesecake you've ever had in your entire life. When the story or the prose was so much that it made my heart swell and almost hurt with emotion or truth, I would close the book and pick it up the next day for another couple of pages. It was a painstaking process, but so worth it.
1. The Characters. These are some of the best characters I've ever read.
- Charlie Beale. Charlie has come back from war looking for some place wonderful: a quiet place to settle down. After wandering around, he finds himself in Brownsburg, Virginia, which is a little town that is established and set in its ways. New people don't often come around, you see. Well, not until Charlie arrives, with his two suitcases. An odd man, Charlie buys a huge chunk of land by the river and sleeps there, either in his truck or on a blanket on the ground, listening to the sounds of the river as he faithfully writes in his diary. Charlies is a meat-cutter by trade - the best - and quickly befriends Will, the owner of the shop, his wife Alma, and his son, Sam. Charlie is a kind man and everyone seems to like him. He is a little different from everyone else (because war changes a man), but nobody seems to mind that much - to begin with. ~ I have never ever in my life read another character that gripped my heart like Charlie Beale. Never. Ever.
- Sylvan Glass. Sylvan is the young, pretty bride to Boaty Glass, the most wealthy man in town. Sylvan was born on a farm to a very poor family outside of town, but Boaty saw her working by the road one day while out driving his fancy car. He liked the way she looked, thought she'd make a good-looking wife. Boaty bought Sylvan from her family in exchange for the lease for their farm. Just like that, Sylvan became Boaty's property, and that is how he treated her. ~ Boaty quickly tired of Sylvan, but he showered her with money, buying her things like home furnishings and expensive fabrics so she could have fancy dresses reproduced from her magazines - ones like the actresses wear out in Hollywood. She is aware that Charlie thinks she is beautiful, but she belongs to Boaty. What is she to do? She thinks Charlie handsome, even likes him a little too, but she knows that her family only gets to keep the farm as long as she stays married to Boaty. That was the deal he made with them. ~ Boaty Glass is a despicable man. Absolutely horrid, and wonderfully written so. I couldn't help but despise him.
- Sam Haislett. Sam is son of the Will and Alma. Only 5 years old, Sam idolizes Charlie, and follows him everywhere. Charlies grows to love Sam very much and the two become inseparable. Charlie takes Sam on errands, talks to him about life, and becomes Sam's very best friend. Sam loves the way Charlie will run around and actually play with him whereas Will and Alma treat him more like a nuisance that they love than a son that they want to play with. He adores Charlie.
- Each of the secondary characters are amazing. Amazing. I can't stress the characterization in this book enough.
2. The Story. Charlie slips into town, finds a job, and makes a life for himself. At first, people are a bit cautious, but as he is friendly to them while he cuts their meat, they soon warm up to them. See, everyone in town stops by the shop every single day for Charlie to cut meat for their dinner. He doesn't say too much, but always the perfect amount. As he is unmarried and alone, some of the townsfolk even become quite protective of him.
Charlie tries to meld perfectly into the Brownsburg way of life. He begins buying up properties, including a house right in town. He begins coaching baseball. He tries to attend different area churches, although he never acquires a taste for any of them. Things are looking up for Charlie - until he makes a mistake and someone finds out.
In the middle of everything is Sam. Sam is there for all of the good things and when things go wrong. And Sam is only five, so he doesn't understand what is happening.
3. The Setting. Brownsburg, Virginia, 1948. Population: just over 500. The people never locked their doors because no crime had ever been committed there. The people were segregated but got along just fine and there were no problems. These were a religious people, and they believed in God and the Bible. The streets were straight, lined neatly with shops and houses, and the hills outside the town were green and beautiful.
4. The Romance. This is where this book broke me. Charlie waited every day for Sylvan Glass to walk into his store. He held his breath while he cut her meat. He wrapped it perfectly for her. And he watched her walk away. He couldn't understand how a man like Boaty Glass could end up with a woman like Sylvan. The more he saw her, the more he needed to see her. The more he needed to see her, the more he thought of her. Charlie fell in love with Sylvan, with another man's wife, and this is not okay. Not in Brownsburg, Virginia - where the people believe in God and the Bible and no crimes have ever been committed.
I'm here, he wanted to say, would have said if his throat hadn't gone dry at the sight of her. I'm here. I'm the one. -p. 107
Sylvan. He had never had a conversation with her, had heard her child's voice only once. Now he couldn't think of any other thing, and every time he thought about her, it was like a punch in the gut. -p. 110
I want you. I love you. He couldn't even say these things. They weren't allowed. Words like that belonged to other people. Those words belonged to ordinary people who led ordinary lives. -p. 196
Robert Goolrick writes with a language that is hauntingly beautiful. Speaking from experience, it gets into your soul and stays there and lives along with his stories. And this story - it is also hauntingly beautiful in its simple complexity - there is some hard truth to this story because so often in life, we want things that aren't ours. I found Heading Out to Wonderful so emotional and raw, and exactly what I expected from this author. His writing and his stories are pure perfection.
Charlie's story is one of seeking out happiness and finding it. It is also one of love and desire and obsession. There is betrayal and heartache and longing. There are good times and there are bad times. But this is a story that needed to be told and it is a story that can absolutely happen.
If you are a fan of stories that are just fantastic literary stories or if you love brilliant characterization, this is a story for you. It is cheery at times, but not always. It is happy at times, but not always. You may find yourself moved by the prose, enough so that you may want to write down some passages, or mark them in your book. Heading Out to Wonderful is one of the best books I've read, ever, written by one of my favorite authors, ever.
|Going crazy, marking passages. Loving the prose.|
Goolrick fan for life.
Heading Out to Wonderful will appeal to fans of:
(with Flawed Characters, LOVE them)
Excellent, Vivid Setting
Great, Great Storytelling
Literary Fiction with Romance
Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick
is currently available for purchase.
is currently available for purchase.
**I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion and review. I received no compensation for my thoughts. Thank you so much Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill!!