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Heading Out to Wonderful Kindle Edition

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Length: 305 pages
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Editorial Reviews


“Doesn’t disappoint.”—John Searles, on NBC’s "Today"

“Fans of Goolrick's juicy debut novel A Reliable Wife—which spent 32 weeks on USA Today's Best-Selling Books list—can't wait for this follow-up.”—

“Deliciously dark and dangerous.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

“Within the heartbreak of this story, there is joy and beauty . . . In a year when so many of the books I’ve read have been lovely and memorable, Heading Out to Wonderful is my favorite. I could not possibly recommend it or any other book more highly.”—Literate Housewife

“Goolrick spins out his tale like a mountain ballad . . . Dreamers like Charlie will still try to blunder on to wonderful, and they're the ones whom poets will sing about and old men will remember.”
—Wilmington Star-News

“Robert Goolrick vividly evokes two lovers doomed by their place and their past.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“[A] poetic tale that simmers with foreboding atmosphere.”—Printers Row magazine, Chicago Tribune

“[An] unforgettable story of lost and displaced souls in search of identity, acceptance and belonging . . . Goolrick (A Reliable Wife) masterfully ratchets up the tension, while evocative sensory detail and spiritual overtones infuse the emotional landscape of a powerful, climactic novel that seeks to define and explore the meaning of love and goodness.”—Shelf Awareness

“Robert Goolrick is a master of emotive, suspense-driven drama.”—Flavorpill



“Goolrick’s tale of doomed love resonates like a folk ballad , with the language of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its people giving this novel its soul. . . . Like any good ballad, the narrative builds slowly to it s violent climax, packs an emotional punch, and then haunt s readers with it s quintessentially American refrain.”
       —Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly )

“Dietz’s calm style adds to the sensuous descriptions while still creating the feeling that something bad is going to happen. The listener, lulled by Dietz’s tender voice, will feel the horror of the plot’s climax as strongly as young Sam and the people of Brownsburg.”
       —AudioFile (AudioFile )

“A lyrical yet suspenseful novel for general fiction readers.”
       —Library Journal (Library Journal )

“Deliciously dark and dangerous.”
       —O, The Oprah Magazine (O, The Oprah magazine )

Product Details

  • File Size: 441 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1565129237
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (June 12, 2012)
  • Publication Date: June 12, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0074QGEXU
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,609 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Most of my life has been fairly thoroughly explored in my earlier memoir, THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. I was born in a small university town in Virginia, a town in which, besides teaching, the chief preoccupations were drinking bourbon and telling complex anecdotes, stories about people who lived down the road, stories about ancestors who had died a hundred years before. For southerners, the past is as real as the present; it is not even past, as Faulkner said.

I went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and then lived in Europe for several years, thinking that I would be an actor or a painter, two things for which I had a passion that outran my talent. I wrote an early novel, and then my parents disinherited me, so I moved to New York, which is where small-town people move to do and say the things they can't do or say at home, and I ended up working in advertising, a profession that feeds on young people who have an amorphous talent and no particular focus.

Fired in my early fifties, the way people are in advertising, I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life, and I came back around to the pastime that had filled the days and nights of my childhood: telling complex anecdotes about the living and the dead. I think, when we read, we relish and devour remarkable voices, but these are, in the end, stories we remember.

I live in a tiny town in Virginia in a great old farmhouse on a wide and serene river with my dog, whose name is Preacher. Since he has other interests besides listening to my stories, I tell them to you.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a story born in the Virginia Valley, in 1948 Brownsburg, a small town where patriotic, God-fearing people live quietly, raise their families, treasure the traditions that define them. A stranger, Charlie Beale, arrives in town. After roaming the well-kept streets and driving through the countryside, Charlie decides this is the place to stop. Hired in the butcher shop on Main Street, Charlie is welcomed into his boss's family, Will Haislett, his wife, Alma, their five-year-old son, Sam. Charlie's tale begins here, as customers flock to the shop to purchase Charlie's skillful work, the precise cuts of meat, the friendly greeting. Charlie's soul expands with the welcome as he settles in, buys a home the Haisletts help him furnish, young Sam a regular companion on excursions to the country to fish or to the field to play ball. America has woken up from its wartime nightmare, ready for the future.

The town's wealthiest man, Harrison Boatwright "Boaty" Glass, gets the usual respect accorded the wealthy, large in body but small in spirit, with the meanness of a man who has never been liked. Boaty has purchased a country wife, a beautiful creature of no education who has formed an identity from movie magazines and the flickering films of Hollywood, Sylvan Glass hungry for that imagined life with its glamorous clothes and happy endings. The town is content enough with Charlie's presence and his friendship with the Haisletts, with Sam, who accompanies him everywhere that summer with Charlie's new puppy, Jackie Robinson. But when Charlie sets eyes on Sylvan, though he doesn't show it, his heart is consumed, aflame with a slow burning love for this perfect female.
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Goolrick's debut work of fiction, A RELIABLE WIFE, became a book club sensation, a darkly Gothic meditation on sex, identity and relationships that seemed to dramatize in novelistic form many of the themes he explored in his memoir, THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT. HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL, his much-anticipated follow-up, is less broadly shocking or titillating, although it continues to explore themes of sin and forgiveness, secrets and lies, identities created and abandoned, memory and forgetfulness. As the opening line reminds readers, "The thing is, all memory is fiction," and this divide between events and their interpretation is at the heart of the book.

HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL opens in 1948, as Charlie Beale rolls into the small town of Brownsburg, Virginia. It's the kind of small southern town where "no crime had ever been committed," where memories of the Civil War often seem as fresh as those of the recently completed Second World War, where every single person in town attends one church or another on Sunday mornings.

Charlie is a charmer, but also a loner with a puzzling history that is never fully revealed, either to the townspeople or to readers. He comes to town bearing a suitcase full of cash and harboring a reluctance to be pinned down. Even when he finds himself a job and buys himself a house, he often prefers to sleep in the back of his pickup truck or even directly on the ground outdoors.

Charlie's first and only friends in town are his employer, the butcher Will Haislett, and Will's wife, Alma. Their five-year-old son, Sam, latches on to Charlie immediately, calling him "Beebo" and idolizing him as another father figure.
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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Fairbanks Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 14, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved Robert Goolrick's book, A Reliable Wife, and his new one is even better. Heading Out to Wonderful has just about everything you could want in a book: love, redemption, betrayal, atmosphere, good characterization, and wonderful writing.

The novel takes place in Brownsburg, Virginia in 1948, just after World War II. The whites live on one side of town and the blacks on the other side. This is a 'moral' town where no crime, to anyone's knowledge, has ever been committed. It is quiet and beautiful, located in those beautiful unpopulated hills that Virginia once had.

The story centers around one Charlie Beale. He is a newcomer to this small town in Virginia. All he brings with him is a suitcase of knives and another suitcase filled with money. He asks the local butcher if he can work for him for free for one month to show him his skills and then the butcher can decide if he's worth a salary. During this month a lot happens.

Charlie befriends Sam, the butcher's five year-old son and they do a lot together, not always what Sam's parents think they are doing, however. Sam is a child born to his parents late in life. Alma is 40 years old and Will is 54. Sam craves Charlie's youth and all it can offer - the strength, the fastness, the ability to play with children in a way his father can not.

When Will was growing up he was best friends with Boaty Glass, now the richest man in town, but since childhood Boaty has turned mean and sadistic, no one Will would want as a friend.
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