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Heading Out to Wonderful

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  6,484 Ratings  ·  1,252 Reviews
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 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. Heading Out t ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 12th 2012 by Algonquin Books
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Nancy The author says the story is real but the setting was fictional.

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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
I loved A Reliable Wife, and Goolrick had me for the first half of Heading Out to Wonderful. But I was so saddened by the unease of the 5 year-old boy taken along to many rendezvous between two lovers. I started to sense that the plot was getting too dark, with no hope of redemption, but it got even worse than that. Too much blood spilled after such a beautiful beginning... Also I really wondered where Beebo got all his money (maybe I missed something?) to buy land for himself and his adulterous ...more
Jul 01, 2012 Kerry rated it it was amazing

I hardly know where to begin. I just finished this book, and I feel as though I haven't resurfaced, as though my eyes are fogged and my mind is still not my own. I haven't been this swept away by a novel in a long time. Goolrick's prose is stunning and spellbinding and the story he weaves is brilliant, devastating, very real and very human. I wish I knew how to describe his weaving together of landscape, small town southern life, movies, and baseball to create a setting that is as much a charac
Jan 12, 2014 Dem rated it really liked it
Heading out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick was a book I purchased for my kindle by mistake and thought what the heck will give it a go as the process of retuning it just seemed like too much bother.

I was pleasantly surprised after reading the first chapter of this novel as the prose, the characters and the plot had me totally hooked.

The novel is set in the small town of Brownsburg, a quiet and sleepy town in the valley of Virginia. In the summer of 1948 a stranger arrives in town by the name o
Mar 12, 2013 Trish rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Robert Goolrick is a masterful storyteller. He tells stories the old fashioned way: long and languidly, and full of description. Love, especially a great love, never goes out of style. Goolrick delivers. He writes a big love story in a small town. Everyone is involved, right from the first Annual Oyster Fest deep in midsummer, when Charlie shows his physical prowess and Sylvan wears her dark glasses and her red lipstick.

Sylvan Glass. And Sylvan herself—she was just as pretty as her name:
“She h
Emily Crowe
Jul 30, 2014 Emily Crowe rated it really liked it
I admit up front that I was not a fan of Robert Goolrick's previous novel The Reliable Wife, so I was a little reluctant to pick up his new one called Heading Out to Wonderful. Luckily I had a little prompting from Craig Popelars at Algonquin, who told me that he thought I'd love it. As usual, he was right. Damn his eyes.

If you read enough books or watch enough movies, after a while you develop certain expectations built into certain plot points. Thus, in chapter one when a mysterious drifter ro
Oct 19, 2012 Colleen rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 10, 2013 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm certain I noticed this book first due to the author, Robert Goolrick. I had read Reliable Wife and wanted to see what Goolrick would do this time out. Also, I immediately fell in love with the title, Heading Out to Wonderful. The imagery of this drew me right in. Add the quote from the fly leaf "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 thro ...more
Aug 22, 2012 Judith rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Parks
Jan 11, 2012 Linda Parks rated it it was amazing
Wow. This is a very emotionally charged and heart capturing story.
A new guy in town, with money in a suitcase... it begins simple enough.
But this is the thing... it's an amazing STORY. And then there's the way it was WRITTEN.
So uniquely Robert Goolrick.
It amazes me how beautifully he uses words.
The intensity behind soft conversation. The understanding he has of people.
How he digs down to the truth of things through his storytelling.

There were scenes in this story so beautifully crafte
Cathe Olson
Apr 25, 2012 Cathe Olson rated it it was amazing
I loved A Reliable Wife so was excited to get a copy of Goolrick's newest book. This one is about a stranger, Charlie Beale, who one day appears in a small Virginia town and works his way into the affections of the people. But when he falls for the wife of the town's richest man, we know it's only a matter of time before things go awry.

I just love Goolrick's writing . . . opening up one of his books is like sinking into a comfortable chair. I just feel myself going awwww. . . . this is writing I
Laura Stone Johnson
I need a split scoring system to rate this book. Four stars for the first three quarters of the book, one star for the ending. (Spoiler alert!) I loved the tense, doomed passion and the mysterious development of Charlie, but hated when the doomed ending in all its ugliness and improbability finally arrived. It felt cheap and cursory. Even the whole brother/coffin building scene -- he hauled that box into and out of a truck bed by himself? I know, I know, so much of many stories, and this one in ...more
Jul 02, 2012 Nancy rated it it was ok
A stranger (Charlie) comes into town (**spoiler alert**) with tons of unlimited cash (where did he get it? who knows?? Don't ask questions!), and proceeds to have an affair with a married woman (Sylvan). While having his trysts with her, he brings along a little boy, the son (Sam) of a friend of his (Will), and has Sam either 1. wait outside for him or 2. come inside Sylvan's house with him, but with strict instructions NOT to come upstairs to the bedroom. Long story short, Charlie is regarded a ...more
Aug 22, 2013 Joseph rated it it was ok

Charlie Beale is something of a stud. He's a war veteran, a fit athlete and a skilled baseball player. He's hardworking and skilled in his craft as a butcher and is a conscientious friend. All the women in the small town of Brownsburg have a crush on Charlie and all the men respect him. But Charlie is looking for something more. He's Heading Out to Wonderful. And he finds wonderful in the form of Sylvan Glass.

Sylvan Glass is beautiful, whip-smart and glamorous. Sylvan dreams of being a star and
Mar 21, 2013 Tom rated it liked it
I don't remember the last time my attitude about a book has so radically shifted in the midst of the story as it did with this one. If I could rate only the first half of the book, I'd give it five stars. Goolrick artfully describes life in small town Virginia and the relationships of its inhabitants. It's really a love story between the whole town and a stranger who decides to adopt it - Charlie Beale. All this is seen through the eyes of five year old Sam, the son of Charlie's new boss. Sam an ...more
JoAnne Pulcino

Robert Goolrick

HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL is a haunting mountain folk ballad where stories and storytelling echo far and wide in mountains and homes. Some of these tales become poems and some become songs.

This is a tragic and passionate tale of a love affair that is all consuming yet completely forbidden. This finely crafted novel takes place in the summer of 1948 in a sleepy village nestled in a valley in Virginia.

Handsome, charismatic stranger Charlie Beale wanders into
Jul 29, 2012 DeAnne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leisurereads
The stories told by Robert Goolrich are not among the easiest to listen to. This is an epic tale that seems to have Biblical and Shakesperian overtones: a modern morality tale of love and hate,
sin, retribution, destiny, forgiveness, acceptance, reality vs. wishes. The seeds have been planted slowly and carefully throughout the story that will lead to the ultimate tragedy of the ending. And yet the ending took my breath away. He is an author to be reckoned with....Goolrick tells the dark tales of
Dec 31, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it
This was a book highlighting a part of a man's life that is dark and sad. Well written through the eyes of a narrator we find out about at the end of the book but involves a man, Charlie who comes into a sleepy simple town of Virginia to buy some land and settle in. He becomes involved with a woman and we all know that never works out well and without spoiling everything I will just say this isn't a lighthearted novel but it wasn't so gloomy you want to give up on it either. It reminded me of a ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Natasha rated it really liked it
Wow, Goolrick did it to me again. This reading experience was much like when I read A Reliable Wife. At first I felt the story was very drawn out and scenes were exceptionally wordy – yet at the end I look at the story as a whole and just say “Wow”. Somehow through all the negative (and man there’s A LOT) and the drawn out pages a beautiful story was told. I expect to think one thing about the book and am left feeling something completely different by the end.

That said; this story was terribly
Jun 12, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it
Think of how hard it is to reconstruct memories with only the written word: to convey mood and atmosphere; to paint, using only sentences strung together, the color and emotion and sheer force of human passions; to make a landscape come so alive that we can feel the frisson of cold water in a lake or the cruel avoidance of neighbors’ acknowledgments in the street; to enable us to feel lust and taste blood and understand what it is to do the unthinkable. This is precisely what Goolrick can do, li ...more
Jun 29, 2012 Ann rated it liked it
Very sad, tragic, depressing tale. Had hopes early on that this would be somewhat like A Reliable Wife (RG’s 2009 bk) which was a gripping tale of love, lust, betrayal and suspense with loads of twists and turns. Heading Out to Wonderful starts out with a feeling of hope for the new stranger to town, Charlie Beele, Boaty’s bought and paid for young backwoods bride Sylvan, little Sam, and even Clairie the town’s seamstress. The time is 1940’s and a small town Virginia people’s feelings can turn o ...more
Jul 15, 2012 Marialyce rated it liked it
Shelves: july-2012
Well actually 3.5 stars...

I very much like the way in which Mr Goolrick both writes and structures his stories. There is always a bit of something that is a bit murky about his characters and oftentimes there runs a undercurrent that is barely perceptible in the story, but ultimately gets you in the end. So it was with Mr Goolrick's current novel.

This was a story of a young man, Charlie Beale, newly returned from World War 2, who wants to settle down in a small Virginia town. He is looking for
Jan 05, 2014 Mary rated it liked it
Recommended to Mary by: Jo Barton
Charlie Beale arrives in Brownsburg, Virginia with two suitcases. One full of money, the other packed with the sharpest knives anyone has ever seen. Brownsburg is quintessential small town America, and in 1948, the people of Brownsburg are content with their small town ways. They are curious about Charlie, maybe even a little suspicious, but in his quiet manner, he charms them all. Especially a five-year-old boy named Sam, who grows to idolize Charlie. Charlie himself seems charmed with the town ...more
Bonnie Brody
Jun 18, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing
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 beau
Amy Warrick
Sep 20, 2012 Amy Warrick rated it did not like it
When I was a teen I wrote dark and cryptic stories because I thought I was terribly DEEP and artistic. Thank god none survive to this day. Mr. Goolrick has managed to get one of his half-assed teen stories spun into a novel, and published. Dude. I wish I could have figured that out, there seems to be money in it. Anyway, there are holes - where did the money come from? How did the final property transfer possibly happen? And the final question, WTF?
This is a talented writer who is selling us a
Feb 03, 2016 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is 1948, summertime. A stranger shows up in the town of Brownsburg. He carries little with him--just a few personal items, including a set of butcher knives. He is skilled at butchering and he gets a job at the local butcher shop. He becomes good friends with most of the people in town, including the owner of the butcher shop, his wife and young son. He also meets the young wife of Boaty Glass, the town's wealthiest resident. This meeting is the lead in for the rest of the book and shows how ...more
Jul 06, 2015 Clare rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 08, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing
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 atmosphe
Mar 13, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Robert Goolrick is becoming quite masterful in ferreting out people's dark sides and the consequences of their actions. He did it with A RELIABLE WIFE and he does it again with HEADING OUT TO WONDERFUL. In this book, stranger Charlie Beale comes to town looking for a new life and manages to alter the lives of its inhabitants forever. After surviving the war, Charlie arrives in the Virginia town of Brownsburg with a set of butcher knives
Jo Barton
Mar 04, 2013 Jo Barton rated it it was amazing
Brownsburg, Virginia in 1948 is a sleepy place where nothing really happens, and then Charlie Beale enters town with a tin suitcase full of money and a set of butchers knives, and from the first seven words of the opening paragraph, I knew that this book would prove to be something special. At the start of the book, we are told that the story is based on an anecdotal truth which has evolved into myth over time, but as the rawness of passion erupts page by page, the story becomes less anecdotal a ...more
Lisa Wolf
Jul 26, 2012 Lisa Wolf rated it liked it
I’m struggling to figure out just what I want to say about Heading Out To Wonderful. The writing is lovely, and I became involved enough in the plot that I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish the book. On the other hand, I’m not sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Heading Out To Wonderful is set in the sleepy rural town of Brownsburg, Virginia in 1948, post-war years when life in America was on the cusp of change. The author lovingly describes the quality of life in Brow
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Robert Goolrick was born in a small town in Virginia and attended John Hopkins University.

Fired after 30 years in the advertising business, Goolrick wrote his memoir, The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life. A Reliable Wife is his first novel.

Goolrick currently lives in New York City.
More about Robert Goolrick...

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“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.” 17 likes
“There is in this valley a beating heart. It is always and ever there. And when I am gone, it will beat for you and when you are gone, it will beat for your children and theirs, forever. Forever. Until there is no water, no air, no green in the spring or gold in the autumn, no stars in the sky or wind from the north. And when you cannot speak, it will speak for you. When you cannot see, it will be your eyes. When you cannot remember, it will be your memory. It will never forget you. And when you cannot be faithful, it will save a place for your return. This is a gift to you. It cannot be taken away. It is yours forever. It is the narrative of this world, and the scrapbook of your own small life, and, when you are gone into ash and darkness and the grave, it will tell your story.” 14 likes
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