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Heading Out to Wonderful

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  7,055 Ratings  ·  1,326 Reviews
In Heading Out to Wonderful, an attractive and enigmatic stranger—Charlie Beale, a loner, recently home from the war in Europe—wanders into the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of only a few hundred people nestled in the Valley of Virginia. He brings with him two suitcases: one contains all his worldly possessions, including a set of butcher’s knives; the other is full ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 399 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Wheeler Publishing (first published June 12th 2012)
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Nancy The author says the story is real but the setting was fictional.
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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
Jun 15, 2012 Kerry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 07, 2014 Dem rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2012 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 08, 2012 Emily Crowe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 01, 2012 Colleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 30, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Parks
Jan 07, 2012 Linda Parks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 24, 2012 Nancy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 21, 2013 Joe rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
May 14, 2012 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2012 DeAnne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diverse-reads
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
Jun 12, 2012 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bonnie Brody
Jun 11, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another 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 beau
Feb 25, 2013 Natasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2012 Marialyce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 27, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy Warrick
Sep 20, 2012 Amy Warrick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 01, 2012 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting read. It was like a feather light dream of a long ago time with all of its perfect politeness of small town living after the war. But then it had a bit of dark nightmare woven in. I liked the opposites there, but it did get dark. The two opposites were well woven together. I liked the MC too. He was well drawn but maintained a fair amount of mystery. This book had some unique twists. There was always something new going on. Because of that, this was 4 stars for me. I will ...more
Lisa Wolf
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
"I still ask myself sometimes late at night, about what happened, how it all turned out, about the life I've led, you know. Everything. I ask myself the same questions they ask me, these people who've only heard about it, who weren't even around when it all took place. What happened and why did it have to happen in the way it did?"

Long before we identify the narrator, as readers we find ourselves asking those same questions, even though we know it is 'just' a story, set in Brownsburg, Virginia i
Larry Hoffer
Jul 13, 2012 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Goolrick's new book, Heading Out to Wonderful is a terrific follow-up to his creepy, captivating A Reliable Wife. It's 1948, and 39-year-old veteran Charlie Beale arrives in idyllic Brownsburg, Virginia, with two suitcases—one stuffed with cash and the other containing a set of high-quality butcher knives. Brownsburg is a small town where everyone knows everyone, where white and black people don't interact much but treat each other with reasonable respect. After a few weeks of making peop ...more
Nov 08, 2012 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 26, 2012 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many books open with a flashback scene, one that is intended to tantalize the reader and also comfort them and assure them that while they may hint at dark times the narrator has survived and thus all will be well. Yet it is a rare treat to find a book that draws the reader in and makes them feel that they are actually listening to a story be told as if it is unfolding before them as it actually happened. Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick falls solidly into this category. Set in 1948 i ...more
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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.” 19 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.” 16 likes
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