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Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Heading Out to Wonderful (edition 2013)

by Robert Goolrick

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Title:Heading Out to Wonderful
Authors:Robert Goolrick
Info:Algonquin Books (2013), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

  1. 10
    The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (Limelite)
    Limelite: Shared atmosphere and tone. And it's about butchers and knives.
  2. 00
    The Round House by Louise Erdrich (tangledthread)

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Will be adding the "to wonderful" quote to my collection of quotes to remember, refer to.
Having trouble rating this book higher, because I had difficulty with things that were never explained, things that didn't fit for me - even in the stretch of "it's fiction".
However, if I muse on the individual characters and some of the interactions, it is excellent, evocative, and magical in some ways.
For me, personally, just wish those wonderful characters and locale descriptives could have been fit into a slightly differently slanted story line.
Was going to revise my rating, when discussing with Winston and he asked if this wasn't the standard format for a "tragedy" or like an opera . . .oh, my but they have a zillion twists, turns, traumas, tragedies . . .
But - - - they come with MUSIC!!!!! and some of it quite good/moving/sometimes 'catchy' even !
So, on further thought of my further thoughts, going to leave this one at the "it was OK" rating. Wouldn't discourage reading it because segments are very well done. Just don't expect it to make any profound conclusion. Too bad that the great characters that could have been there are about 3 books or 1000 pages short.
I'm done now.
( )
  CasaBooks | Mar 14, 2014 |
What a wonderful book and I hope Goolick writes many more than these few he has written . He is a remarkable story teller ...Kudos to him . I really enjoyed this book and the charecters are totally believable .
  phonelady61 | Jan 8, 2014 |
The book opens with a first person narrated introduction to the quiet town of Brownsburg, Va. in 1948. The story begins when Charlie Beale arrives with a suitcase full of cash and a set of butcher knives "sharp as razors", adding one more to the population of 538 people. The story is about a particular town, in a particular time, and a particular place to a particular group of people who belonged to the land.

Charlie Beale is not one of those particular people. He is a perpetual outsider, not just because of the nature of Brownsburg, but by his own nature as well. Through out the story we are given clues to his separate nature. One example is his difficulty fitting in at church leading to his identification with the people of the AME church, who didn't particularly want a white man man to join them. Through out the story, Charlie remains a cipher. It is not clear where the suitcase full of cash came from. There is an allusion to an unhappy childhood. The knives are German. And it's not clear where this 40 year old man spent the years of WWII.

Another theme in the story are the various types of love. There is love for a child as Charlie takes on his boss's 5 year old son, Sam Haislett. There is neighborly love as the Haisletts hire Charlie in the butcher shop and Alma takes him under her wing. There is filial love, as Charlie's brother Ned comes to help Charlie in his time of need. And there is the forbidden love that Charlie has for Sylvan Glass, the wife of Boaty Glass, the richest and possibly meanest man in town. And there is self love, which is the undoing of all of the others.

This exploration of love and motivation are similar to Goolrick's previous book, The Reliable Wife. Both are sinister and somewhat cynical. While The Reliable Wife takes place in wintry Wisconsin and St. Louis, this book is firmly rooted in summer in the Appalachian Mountains with a Southern Gothic atmosphere in the writing. ( )
  tangledthread | Dec 13, 2013 |
The Short of It:

Complex, well-developed characters and the lure of small town life make Heading Out to Wonderful an entertaining read.

The Rest of It:

The story takes place in Brownsburg, Virginia just after World War II. Brownsburg is a small town, population 538. The kind of simple, southern town you’ve come to know from movies and books. Everyone knows everyone so when a stranger by the name of Charlie Beale arrives, people can’t help but notice. In one hand, he carries a suitcase full of knives and in the other, a whole lot of money. After getting a job at the local butcher, he ends up befriending the butcher’s young, five-year-old son, Sam. The two become inseparable. For a while, it looks as if Charlie has found a place to call home.

Boaty Glass, the richest man in Brownsburg buys himself a young farm girl to become his wife. Sylvan is young and beautiful but not as dumb as Boaty thinks. After securing her place firmly within his home, she transforms herself into a shiny, sparkly thing, surrounded by the best that life has to offer which includes a custom wardrobe made by a woman in town. Impressed with the Hollywood starlets she sees at the movie house, she begins to model herself after them. Wanting nothing but fame and fortune, she begins to resent her time with Boaty and Boaty has taken to putting her in her place, both verbally and physically.

When Charlie Beale sees Sylvan for the first time, he sees a beautiful girl, trapped in a marriage she does not want. The need to save her becomes an obsession and when the two begin to meet regularly, you quickly realize that no good can come of it.

I’m not sure how well-received this book was when it first came out. Following the wickedly good, A Reliable Wife, I am guessing it did pretty well. But for some reason this one slipped past my radar until just recently. I am so glad I finally picked it up.

This book has a little bit of everything. There’s the love triangle of course which makes for some juicy reading, but the small town feel of it and the friendship between Beale and the boy seemed especially tender. There was a sweetness to all the nastiness and Sylvan Glass was such an interesting woman creature. As wicked as she was, I felt as if I understood where she was coming from, which always surprises me. I don’t consider myself a vindictive, conniving human being but I must have a dark streak somewhere because I eat this stuff up.

I enjoyed Heading Out to Wonderful very much. It’s the type of book that makes you question motive and with characters like Sylvan and Boaty, you could spend hours trying to figure them out. Plus, the writing has that atmospheric quality that always pulls me in. Goolrick’s take on small town life really puts you right in the center of town. It’s quite impressive how quickly I was pulled into the story. If I were to compare his two books, I’d say this one is the tamer of the two, but certainly no less complex than the other.

If you haven’t given his books a try, do so!

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Jul 31, 2013 |
I loved Goolrick's first novel, A Reliable Wife. This second novel, Heading Out to Wonderful, was almost impossible for me to put down -- it combines a plot that really moves along, gorgeous writing, and great character descriptions. For me, a truly unforgettable novel.

How Goolrick gives us a sense of time and place, and the mood (pages 8-9 of my trade paperback edition):

"Children remember summer best; they feel its pleasures on their skin. The older you get, it's the winters that stay with you, down deep in your bones. Things happen in the winter. People die in February.

Children remember staying up late. Grownups think about getting up early.

A particular town, then, Brownsburg, in a particular time and place. The notion of being happy didn't occur to most people, it just wasn't something they thought about, and life treated them pretty well, and even though at least two or three men got drunk every week night and slapped their wives and children around and children were punished hard when they were rude or misbehaved, the notion of being unhappy didn't occur much either." ( )
1 vote ValerieAndBooks | Jun 9, 2013 |
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Book description
"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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In 1948, a mysterious and charismatic man arrives in a small Virginia town carrying two suitcases; one contains his worldly possessions, the other is full of money. He soon inserts himself into the town's daily life, taking a job in the local butcher shop and befriending the owner and his wife and their son. But the passion that develops between the man and the wife of the town's wealthiest citizen sets in motion a series of events that not only upset the quiet town but threaten to destroy both him and the woman.… (more)

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