08 June 2012

Imprint Friday: Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

In 1948, the Appalachian town of Brownsburg, Virgina, was a place "where no crime had ever been committed" (p. 4). Robert Goolrick's Heading Out to Wonderful describes just how much that town was about change after 39-year-old Charlie Beale drove into town, apparently to stay.

Here's the summary:

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 haven't yet read Heading Out to Wonderful, but there are several things about the book that attract me besides the Southern setting (which you all know by now is a favorite of mine). First, the opening pages are so well written and so thought provoking that I know I'm going to be swept away by the rest of the book. The first line is, "The thing is, all memory is fiction." And by the second page we realize this is a story about something bad. Our narrator survived it, but we don't know who he or she is or what that person lived through.

Second, several reviews have mentioned that the novel is like a ballad and that there are a number of musical references. And Goolrick himself mentions being influenced by country music in an interview with PW. I'm curious about the rhythm of a book written in a way that reminds readers of song.

Finally, I like a coming-of-age / loss-of-innocence story and this one seems to be about not only a young boy but also about a community. Or perhaps the book is a statement about how America was changed by World War II. In any case, I'm curious and can't wait to read past Chapter 1.

Here are some other views (click on the links for the full reviews):
  • Publisher's Weekly: "Like any good ballad, the narrative builds slowly to its violent climax, packs an emotional punch, and then haunts readers with its quintessentially American refrain."
  • Emily at A Reading Odyssey: "It's the story of otherwise good people who choose to let evil into their hearts, and the blinding love of a small boy for a man he calls Beebo, who instinctively knows something about protection but is too innocent to understand what happens around him."
  • Amy at Life by Candlelight: "Goolrick manages to take a fairly common theme and turn it into something surprising and affecting."
Heading Out to Wonderful is an Indie Next pick for June 2012. For more on Robert Goolrick, visit his website, where you can read an excerpt and see his extensive tour schedule. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Algonquin Books
is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.

Heading Out to Wonderful at Powell's
Heading Out to Wonderful at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781565129238


Sandy Nawrot 6/8/12, 7:07 AM  

I was the one person who did not like his last book. I REALLY didn't like it, even to the point where I swore I'd never read his books again. But I have to admit, this story does sound good. My mind isn't decided yet...maybe I will give it a go.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 6/8/12, 8:13 AM  

Everyone who's read this so far has seemed to enjoy it -- looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing with us.

Daryl 6/8/12, 8:57 AM  

Sandy is not alone, I read Goolrick's last book and was not impressed .. in fact I wished it had been a lot shorter ... so while this looks interesting I have to say so did A Reliable Wife and it wasnt ..

Karen Harrington 6/8/12, 10:41 AM  

I'm reading Heading Out To Wonderful right now. I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts. At the moment, all I will say is this: if I didn't know he was the author of A Reliable Wife, I would not have guessed it from this very different book.

Peggy Ann 6/8/12, 11:40 AM  

I did enjoy The Reliable Wife and would like to read this one too. Will check my library.

Unknown 6/8/12, 3:17 PM  

I didn't read his first book, but I too love southern and coming age books, so I might have to read this one. Thanks for the heads up, though I'm trying hard to add very little to my TBR list...my stacks are already too high.

Teresa 6/8/12, 5:13 PM  

I am reading this right now and thoroughly enjoying it. I haven't read A Reliable Wife, but it is on my shelf waiting patiently.

(Diane) bookchickdi 6/8/12, 9:08 PM  

Robert Goolrick is doing a reading and signing at my local B&N this month, I'm looking forward to attending and hearing all about this new book.

Sebastian Clouth 6/9/12, 12:21 AM  


I am the Books editor at Before It's News (beforeitsnews.com). Our site is a rapidly growing people-powered news platform currently serving over 3 million visits a month. We like to call ourselves the "YouTube of news."

We would love to republish your blog's RSS Feed in our new Books section. Every post would have a description of your site and a link back to it. Our visitors would love to read your content and find out more about you!

You could also publish excerpts of your books if you'd like :), along with links back to pages where they are for sale.

It's a great opportunity to spread the word about your work and reach new readers. We don't censor or edit work.

We will be featuring and promoting content and book excerpts across the web.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Sebastian Clouth
Books Editor, Before It's News

Florinda 6/9/12, 5:01 PM  

I attended a panel at BEA called "The Journey of a Book: From Writer to Reader" that traced the "journey" via this very book...and intrigued me enough that I brought a copy home with me.

Andi 6/12/12, 1:40 PM  

Looking forward to this one. I enjoyed A Reliable Wife for the writing and it was very discussable.

Unknown 6/13/12, 10:52 AM  

A Reliable Wife was such a love it or hate it book, that I can't help but be curious about his next one. In some ways I found it oddly explicit--just in the sense of tone--so I'm curious if this one will be similar in that regard. Thanks for highlighting this one.

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