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This Isn't Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew

by Daniel Wallace

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9018296,530 (3.75)1
"The author tries to come to terms with the life and death of his multitalented longtime friend and brother-in-law, who had been his biggest hero and inspiration"--

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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a very well written book about the author's brother-in-law. It was about his life up to the point of him committing suicide. Very sad that his sister was left all alone. Ending was great and all in all a good read.
Trigger warnings: suicide. ( )
  booklover3258 | Jul 31, 2023 |
Insightful and intimate, but still with a paradoxical undercurrent of universality. This is a grief memoir, but also an examination of perceptions of masculinity and of family. The man who defined for the author what it meant to "be a man", his brother in law William, killed himself, leaving behind Wallace and Wallace's sister, a chronically ill and substantially disabled woman who had been his constant companion since they had been in grade school, the love of his life and also a person who was completely dependent on William. Wallace lays himself bare (he certainly does not offer a very glamourous picture of himself) and also lays bare Willam whom he comes to know through the journals he left behind.

The book is painful to read from start to finish, but it is also insightful and brings home in excruciating detail the impossibility of really knowing anyone. It is a beautiful homage to William, an iconoclast, but also man who was deeply flawed and desperately wanted to be better. Wallace occasionally goes off into some self-indulgent directions that do not enhance the narrative, but overall this is truly excellent. ( )
  Narshkite | Jul 30, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
People are a mystery. We can only know the pieces of them that they are willing to show or share. No matter how much they appear to be an open book, there is some hidden part, smaller or larger, that they hold secret. Mostly we don't give much thought to this very private piece of the people in our lives. Their public self is enough. But when you lose someone by suicide, someone you thought you knew, someone who was instrumental in forming your own adult self, someone you loved dearly, you might start to look harder to try and find that missing piece, the unshared and unsharable aspect of your loved one's persona. This was definitely true for Daniel Wallace, as he chronicles in his non-fiction look at his late brother-in-law, William Nealy, This Isn't Going to End Well.

When Wallace was twelve, he first met his future brother-in-law. There was an immediate case of hero worship for this fearless, adventurous, talented, and charismatic man. William represented everything cool in Wallace's world and the fact that he took time to get to know this awkward kid and to occasionally include him or teach him was an absolute gift. Wallace wanted to be like William when he grew up, never knowing the demons that William fought underneath that legendary exterior until it was far too late.

William was a deeply complex person suffering from deep trauma and suicidal ideation. He was increasingly obsessed with his best friend's unsolved murder. On the surface, he was a master at just about everything he turned his hand to, he was loving and tender, especially with Holly, Wallace's sister, who suffered from crippling arthritis and a multitude of other health problems, he was (and still is) a famed cartoonist, a storied and respected river runner, and a much beloved brother-in-law. But all of that could not keep him from taking his own life, an act that left Wallace confused, angry, and devastated, and ultimately searching for the truth of the man he thought he'd known.

The book is almost a series of vignettes from Wallace's own life, his memories of William, Holly, and his attempts to work through his own confused feelings about William's death. It is both Wallace's book and William's book, and even occasionally Holly's book. It is musing and reflective when Wallace is focused on himself. Oddly enough, it is less sympathetic when it turns to William though. Wallace uses excerpts from William's private journals, which were supposed to be destroyed, to give the reader a look into William's mind. This private, made very public without consent, in fact, expressly against consent, makes for some very uncomfortable reading. Clearly Wallace is still angry about William's death and while he doesn't sugar coat this ugly emotion and all it inspired him to do, he hasn't seemed to work past it far enough to feel deep sorrow and understanding for the man who suffered so much emotionally in private. In a way, the anger feels like a betrayal of all that William gave to him over the years.

This is less a memoir/biography than a reflection on how hard it is, indeed, to realize that someone you adored was merely human like the rest of us and the sadness of discovering that the inner person isn't like the outer person, or at least the outer person isn't the whole of the person you thought you knew. William was a major influence on Daniel's life but one has to wonder after reading this, what William himself would have thought of his brother-in-law's book, whether he would have thought it a fair exposure or not. Laying bare what it did, in the manner that it did, was deeply uncomfortable to me as a reader. ( )
  whitreidtan | Jul 17, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I feel very troubled by this book. On the one hand, it is insightful into the author's coming of age and is well written. On the other hand, it ultimately isn't about the author, isn't actually a memoir -- it is frankly speculative and exploitative of its true subject. Wallace calls him "the man I thought I knew" but there's no uncovering of who he really is. There's a lot of dark things revealed, things that shouldn't have been Wallace's to share. There's SO much speculation. It feels unfair. I really felt troubled by the storytelling and what it means for Wallace's sister and now-deceased brother-in-law who simply could not weigh in. ( )
1 vote sparemethecensor | Jul 10, 2023 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Daniel Wallace's first foray into nonfiction is a memoir dedicated to his brother-in-law, fellow author, and complete idol William Nealy. Wallace traces their intertwined lives from their first meeting in 1971 through William's suicide in 2001, and Wallace's own reconciliation with this fact in 2019. Wallace writes about the man he admired so much, the man he modeled his own life after, who influenced so many decisions Wallace himself made in his life, not least of which was to become a novelist. And then he writes about Nealy's death and the aftermath that rippled through he own life, and the twenty years it took for him to understand what happens when heroes die and become flawed humans all over again.

Is there such a thing as a selfish memoir? Because that's the way this read to me. I struggled a lot with this, because it seemed as if Wallace couldn't decide if he was writing Nealy's story, or Holly's (Nealy's wife/Wallace's sister), or his own, so he tries to write all three, and it doesn't quite stick the landing, IMO. We watch Wallace struggle to reconcile the man he idolized with the actual human being he was. He compares himself to Max Brod, close friend and literary executor of Franz Kafka, who promised Kafka he'd destroy his works upon his death but instead published them against Kafka's wishes. Wallace doesn't publish Nealy's private journals in full here, but he does pull large chunks of them out to be examined, when it is obvious Nealy never intended for that to happen.

Wallace also draws a thru line of motifs (The Great Pretender/imposter syndrome) from his own novels to this book. Was Nealy the ultimate Great Pretender, leading a dual life? Was his friendship with Edgar Hitchcock (another man who lived on the edge of death) borne from this similarity? Were they kindred spirits because both had a death wish?

Nealy had an extraordinary life that needed no embellishment. He also struggled with a lot of demons, including the unsolved murder of his best friend, and near-constant suicidal ideation. You either understand suicidal depression or you don't, and pretty clearly Wallace doesn't. It is cringe-inducing to read his fumbling about for reasons why why Nealy lived - and died - the way he did. He spends a lot of time being angry with Nealy for leaving his sister, and refuses to fulfill said sister's wishes after she dies, and it takes nearly twenty years for him to try to right that wrong. Without any sort of belief in the spirit world or afterlife, however, this rings incredibly hollow. Wallace may have believed he came full circle, but I don't.

I have enjoyed Wallace's novels before, and find his style of writing to be compulsively readable, but I had an extremely hard time with this. I don't think he accomplished what he wanted to with this memoir, and unfortunately my opinion of him has changed for the worse rather than the better after reading this.
  eurohackie | Apr 5, 2023 |
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"The author tries to come to terms with the life and death of his multitalented longtime friend and brother-in-law, who had been his biggest hero and inspiration"--

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