HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL by Robert Goolrick

HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL

KIRKUS REVIEW

A torrid extramarital romance is the heart of Goolrick’s powerful but problematic second novel; it follows the acclaimed A Reliable Wife (2009). 

Brownsburg nestles beneath Virginia’s mountains. In 1948 it’s a no-stoplight, God-fearing, segregated place, the blacks out of sight. Strangers are monitored rather than greeted, strangers like Charlie Beale, a 39-year-old Northerner with a suitcase of cash. His first purchase is the river land where he’s been sleeping. He’s evidently a gentle soul, childlike even, but how could a naïf have acquired all that cash? That’s never answered; the stranger’s mystique is preserved at the cost of credibility. Charlie’s a butcher by trade, and he’s hired by a local guy, a good Christian like his wife. They dote on their only child, 5-year-old Sam, and soon Charlie does too. He also comes to dote on one of his customers. Sylvan Glass is a bewitching blonde, barely out of her teens, with a thrilling fantasy life; she’s a star-struck movie fan. She’s married to a much older man, Boaty Glass. Boaty is fat and rich and mean. He plucked Sylvan from her hillbilly family in the hollows, paying cash down; Boaty’s negotiation with her dirt-poor father is utterly convincing. Charlie and Sylvan are drawn to each other from the get-go; Sylvan sees him as her matinee idol, while Charlie is transformed by unconditional love. He buys her a house for their trysts, doing Sam no favors by using him as a cover. Goolrick is aiming for the somber momentum of the ballad, and there is much pleasure-giving psychological truth along the way, but at a key moment his calibration fails him. Something extraordinary happens, out of the blue. “You may wonder why, and I’m telling you that I don’t know,” is the narrator’s cop-out. That doesn’t stop the gothic flourishes of a murder/suicide, followed by a second suicide; yet arresting as they are, they seem arbitrary. 

There are some weak links in a chain that's still capable of pulling you along. 

Pub Date: June 12th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-56512-923-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2012




MORE BY ROBERT GOOLRICK

FictionA RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick
by Robert Goolrick
NonfictionTHE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT by Robert Goolrick
by Robert Goolrick

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