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The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life Hardcover
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From Publishers Weekly
Goolrick begins his debut work with a moment he hopes will bring him closure—returning to his Southern home to bury his abusive father. Peeling away the family's carefully constructed facade like the layers of an onion, this brave memoir tells of a childhood marred by alcoholism and an adulthood mired in loneliness, substance abuse and self-mutilation. The son of an indolent college professor and an unfulfilled, Valium-placated housewife, Goolrick grows up in a 1950s home where lavish cocktail parties and false bourgeois airs are sacred, and disclosing the family's slightest imperfection is sinful. Goolrick is never forgiven for his own minor trespasses, despite showering his struggling, status-hungry parents with extravagant gifts (he even resorts to buying them the family home they could never afford to own). Eventually it is revealed that their unhealthy dynamic and Goolrick's attempted suicide stem largely from a single, life-altering incident: his rape by his drunken father at the age of four. In the end, Goolrick has written a moving, unflinchingly rendered story of how the past can haunt a life. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.
"If you don't receive love from the ones who are meant to love you," writes Goolrick toward the end of his engrossing memoir, "you will never stop looking for it." He opens the window into his lonely life in small increments, beginning with parents whose lives revolved around the cocktail hour. After the guests departed, bitterness and depression hung over the house, and love for one another was never expressed. Goolrick moves on to his own heavy drinking and the death wish that drove him to slit his wrist on his thirty-fifth birthday. He cuts himself daily for two months, then lands in the "loony bin," where the "viciousness and multiplicity" of his cuts make him a star. Finally Goolrick confides the horrific experience of being raped by his drunken father at age four, his mother watching but doing nothing. Goolrick knows he has never recovered; the reader only hopes that writing of his story will bring him some small measure of peace. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the CD-ROM edition.
Top customer reviews
I have not experienced what he did so cannot personally relate to what happened to him. I just know from what others who have experienced this say, that it is devastating.
I am not at all certain whether he is doing better now or not. My impression from the list of prescription drugs he takes daily, that he is over-medicated; but I am not a doctor. I hope he is no longer drinking and that he no longer cuts himself or experiences physical pain each day.
I was glad to hear that he sold the house. I felt it was not an emotionally healthy place for him to be living.
Certainly he dwells upon the negativity that has occurred in his life. Perhaps when these negative images and thoughts decend if he could stop himself and exchange them for something positive that would help some--get in the habit of always doing that.
I think the way his parents treated him following the incident was as much or maybe even more, damaging, than the drunken act itself. The blame should have been placed primarily on the father, but the mother and grandmother should have spoken up. That the parents behaved as if it were this boy's fault destroyed his self esteem and created the self-hatred and fears that have kept him prisoner during his life.
A great deal, if not all, of what happened was due to heavy drinking.
Like many of us, and partly I believe due to his upbringing, he has placed too high a value on the looks of things. He berates himself because he's not "beautiful enough." There are virtues, values and goals far more relevant than one's looks or even having the "perfect" sex life; although certainly a person should be able to enjoy love and sex with their beloved.
I do think he is an immensely talented writer and hope he will now focus his skills on writing a novel. I wish him well.
Goolrick was raised in rural Virginia (he and his sister are friends mentioned several times in Sally Mann's recent memoir, "Hold Still"), and his writing is in the great Southern narrative tradition. He draws you into the book, and his life, with tales about relatives ranging from quirky to downright crazy (not always in a good way), the beauty of the country, the hot and humid days and the cold winter nights, and the ways of the South in the 1950s, but at some point you realize that you've been sucked in to a true Southern Gothic horror tale, made more so by the fact that it appears to be true.
I won't give away the event that shapes so much of Goolrick's life and psyche, but that event is what triggers the use of the words above -- shocking, painful, and upsetting, all to the nth degree; truly a shattering experience to read and unimaginably so for him to have lived through. And yet he turns the event into a profound plea -- almost hymn-like -- for compassion and understanding.
So perhaps you'll understand why "love" isn't the right word. This is a wonderful book, but it's hardly light reading.
This author's father was a handsome, charming college professor. His mother was a well-bred, well-dressed Southern beauty. They lived in a gracious 200-year-old home and had three attractive children. The witty conversation at their frequent cocktail parties made them the most popular hosts in town. They were Jack and Jackie Kennedy, but with prettier accents.
Nobody wanted to know what went on beneath the smooth surface. When the son wrote his story, the backlash taught him a sad fact of life. If forced to choose between comfortable fantasy and harsh truth, most people will cling to the fantasy.