Heading Out to Wonderful: Book summary and reviews of Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Heading Out to Wonderful

A Novel

By Robert Goolrick

Heading Out to Wonderful
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2012,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

In Heading Out to Wonderful, an attractive and enigmatic stranger - Charlie Beale, a loner, recently home from World War II 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 of money.

Charlie quickly finds a job at the local butcher shop and through his work there meets all the townspeople, most notably Sam Haislett, the five-year-old son of the shop's owner, and Sylvan Glass, the beautiful, eccentric teenage bride of the town's richest man. What no one anticipates is how the interaction of these three people will alter the town forever, and how the passion that flares between Charlie and Sylvan will mark young Sam for life.

Told through the eyes of Sam, now an older man looking back on that time, Heading Out to Wonderland is an exciting, erotically charged, and altogether unforgettable story of love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about Heading Out to Wonderful. Join the discussion! You can see the full discussion here.

Bazooka tree
The Bazooka tree was a unique idea. Kids would love that. Great during a party. However, adults must make sure the games in a party or activities for kids are safe. When the gum was put up so high in the tree encouraging Sam to climb to get them ... - terri

Before Sylvan and Charlie get together, you know they are fated to be together; what keeps the pages turning in this electric buildup?
I like to follow a story when you need to experience the build up of a relationship. It is more real to me and a much better reading experience. - laurieh

Coming to terms with life's compromises
In life many people remain in "All Right" on the way to "Wonderful." Rather reminds me of an old Peggy Lee song which laments the question: Is that all there is? - MarieA

Does the revival of "vintage" goods hold appeal for you? Do we have a special place in our hearts for the "good old days"?
I love the idea of vintage goods, and stories of the good old days- both my version of the good times for me, and the stories I grew up with from my parent's generation which became a part of my vision of the past. I think its great, and we all do, ... - judym

Heading Out to Wonderful
I enjoyed this book with its complicated characters. I appreciate that not all was as it seemed and some surprises were there for the reader to discover and marvel at. In fact, I enjoyed the book so much that I have now a copy of the author's first... - Lea Ann

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Goolrick effortlessly creates a timeless, erotically charged tale of illicit passion and peoples it with a unique cast of characters, ranging from a gifted black seamstress to a country girl besotted with Hollywood movie stars and fashion. Finely crafted fiction from a captivating writer." - Booklist

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Goolrick (A Reliable Wife) creates a timeless town where memory of an affair and crime can haunt forever. A lyrical yet suspenseful novel for general fiction readers." - Library Journal

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Shelly
Heading Out To Wonderful
I could not put this book down. I read it in just a few days. I read A Reliable Wife, and was happy to read this second book. I knew Goolrick writes dark, gothic kind of books, so I was prepared for the same in this book. I knew it would not be a good ending. But, I was unprepared for it nonetheless. Although I should have seen it coming.

I was drawn into the characters and their many flaws. Charlie, where did he get his money? Sylvan, drawn into her dreams of Hollywood. Of course, I felt very badly for Sam. He was the most damaged by it all. I was very upset with Charlie.

Overall, I loved the book. I would recommend it and may use it for my book club.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Dorothy L
A Disappointing Read
The author's first novel, A Reliable Wife, was an intriguing read. I eagerly awaited the second book by this author. Heading out to Wonderful is not the book expected. Although well written, there are many unrealistic aspects to the plot and character portrayal. Sam's character, a pivotal part of the story, was far too precocious. I could not believe in his point of view as a five year old. The characters of Sylvan and Boaty were superficially drawn. I did get a good sense of the setting which is integral to the plot. But the ending was too abrupt and unrealistic. Although I wanted to like this book, I but ultimately I found it a disappointing read.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Mary
Heading Out to Wonderful
I read A Reliable Wife (by this author) some time ago and I have been eagerly awaiting this new book. Often the "next" book does not come intrigue me quite as much as the first, but this was an exception. The beautiful, flawless use of language is the same. The setting powerfully ( a small country town) defines the characters and moves the plot forward. And there is also a wife in this book who is also unreliable. She came from way out in the country where "children had never met anyone who was not related to them,and was bought by the richest man in town, to be his wife. A dark love story unfolds after she meets Charlie Beale, the town butcher, and this book kept me turning every page. I was not prepared for the ending and I slept with the light on after I closed the book.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by lorraine
Heading out to Wonderful?
I gave Robert Goolrick's second novel a 4 rating because I think his writing is fluid and detailed. However, I was not satisfied with his treatment of women characters. Sylvan in particular was shallow and easily manipulated by men. She seemed to be interested only in appearances and was unable to love anyone, including herself. It was hard to imagine her character as a real person. Charlie and Sylvan's relationship seemed based primarily on sexual satisfaction. I really hated the way Charlie abused his relationship with Sam, exposing him to his tawdry affair with Sylvan. The ending was dark, shocking and just a little unbelievable. As in his first novel, Goolrick seems obsessed with female characters who are manipulative and false and their lovers/husbands who become obsessed with them.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by SharalynneP
Heading Out To Wonderful
I read this book in two days because I could not put it down. I loved the story especially since it didn't turn out the way I expected it would. My one negative comment is that I kept waiting to learn more about where Charlie came from, more of his past history. That being said, I really did enjoy this book and would recommend it.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by AnnieH
Would We Know Wonderful If We Were in the Middle of It?
Having recently driven back and forth on I-64 and I-95 in Virginia I knew this landscape like the back of my hand. There are many areas along these highways that have not changed much since the Civil War and it was easy to be immersed in the geography of this tale. And a tale it is, one you might hear yourself as it gets handed down from one generation to the next. The location becomes a separate character and has its impact on the people of this town and those who come to live in Brownsburg.

What came to my mind was the ever present desire for some men and women to want more than their present contentment and how impossible that is to suppress as grass growing up through concrete. What that search for more means and how it affects a townful is the story told here.

...4 more reader reviews

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More Information

Robert Goolrick is the author of A Reliable Wife and the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town. Visit him online at http://robertgoolrick.com.

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