Heading Out to Wonderful
Author: Robert Goolrick
Published: June 12, 2012
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Synopsis (from GoodReads): 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.
My Thoughts: A few years ago, I read Robert Goolrick's A Reliable Wife and fell in love with his writing. It was such a good story, layered and deep, that I couldn't wait to read his next novel. I had to wait a few years, but the wait was definitely worth it. In his latest novel, Goolrick takes us to rural Virginia a few years after World War II. This is sleepy little area, where the people who have lived there have lived there for generations. Few people leave and even fewer people move in. A man named Charlie Beale moves to this town, looking for someplace different than where he's been. He moves in and gets a job with the town butcher. Charlie is taken in by the butcher's family, and the son becomes like Charlie's own boy. Charlie falls in love with a woman, Sylvan, but there's one issue: she's married to the wealthiest man in town. A passionate affair takes place between the two, resulting in despair. Goolricks slowly weaves his tale, leading you into the twisted world of these two lovers.
I liked the character of Charlie. He seems like an everyman, someone who you might know. I do wish that there was more background on him, such as what his life was like before that made him want to move to the middle of nowhere. I thought Goolrick might give me a little bit, but there was nothing. In fact, until his brother shows up all of a sudden, there is no mention of Charlie's family! I didn't particulary like Sylvan, but if there had been a bit more about her included in the story, I might have felt differently. The cast of characters in this story is rich and diverse, with everyone contributing something to the story of Charlie Beale.
Robert Goolrick is a great writer, introducing us to worlds and characters that I find few authors exploring today. If you are looking for something different, something that you that isn't like most books out there today, then give Goolrick a try. He's a great writer and an even better storyteller.