Author: Robert Goolrick
"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.
I read this book last night and it shattered me. The whole time I read it, I was filled with trepidation, not sure if I wanted to go further. Everything was so idyllic, perfect, you just knew something was going to happen. Like the Robert Frost poem, nothing gold can stay. I even had to tweet Jennifer at The Relentless Reader I was so nervous!!
And here is the tricky thing - everything in the book was going swimmingly. I had no reason to be anxious, but Goolrick has a way of creating an atmosphere, and although all was wonderful, it was an ominous wonderful. Charlie Beale arrives in town,a stranger and a drifter living out of his truck on the land he had purchased. He enjoys a cigarette and a glass of whiskey before bed, and never fails to write in his diary. He is a butcher who cares about the animals he slaughters not wanting them to experience fear. He gets a job at the local store as a butcher, and befriends the owners, Willie and Alma, and their son Sam. Within a short time, Charlie becomes beloved. His relationship with Sam evolves into one close to that of father and son, and Charlie would never do anything to hurt Sam. Charlie possesses a mastery of whatever he decides to do, and for a while, that is just being a good citizen of Brownsburg. And then Sylvan waltzes into his life, and it all goes to hell.
I had a crush on Charlie, just like all the residents of Brownsburg did. I thought I understood him, although we know next to nothing about who he was before he came to Brownsburg, what he did, where he got his money. Love will certainly mess a person up! He started doing things that I was uncomfortable with, I trusted him less as a character. I was hoping for redemption, but what I got blew my mind! I was so emotionally involved in this book, I am tired out today.
This book is like a gothic folk ballad, haunting and lovely and tragic. I absolutely loved it.