Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Heading Out To Wonderful - Robert Goolrick

Charlie Beale arrives in Brownsburg, Virginia one day in 1948. We know very little about him, where he came from or his life before now; all we know is that he brings with him two suitcases, one full of his possessions including a set of butchers knives and another full of money. He begins working for Will Haislett the town butcher and befriends him, his wife Alma and their young son Sam. Sam spends a lot of time with Charlie and events that he inadvertently witnesses will change his character and impact permanently on his life; we see these events from his past as he recalls them.

This a beautifully written novel, with such a tangible sense of place and time; the setting is a small town where everyone gets on with their business, attends church, and rarely ventures any further than towns borders; it's a place where you are born, live and die. There is no crime to speak of and everyone has their place within the community. Charlie finds peace in this place, but then one day Charlie sees Sylvan Glass and he is enchanted, his peace is shattered and life is destined to change for all involved. Sylvan dreams of places, people and lives far beyond her lowly origins and means, she copies the voices she hears on the radio, and dreams of the movie stars in the magazines, but at what cost?

Heading Out To Wonderful boasts a compelling narrative voice and delivers a captivating story that drew me further in as the tension built. It encompasses so many ideas and themes; childhood innocence lost, friendship, passionate, destructive and fragile love, hope and longing, matters of race, fantasy and dreams, dangerous jealousy and terrible sadness; 'a world of heartbreak.' 

At the heart of the novel is an all-consuming love affair that made me hold my breath wondering what would develop; I felt so involved in the story and therefore so terrified about the potential dangers ahead as a result of Charlie and Sylvan's actions, fearing how others would react. There are some notable characters, in particular the mysterious Claudie and loathesome Boaty. There are mysteries that remain unsolved, that left me pondering at the end of this beguiling and devastating novel that provoked feelings of both joy and sadness within me.

Published by Hutchinson

Reviewed for We Love This Book

Thanks to We Love This Book and the publisher for providing a proof copy of this novel to read and review. 


  1. Sounds like just my kind of read, thanks for recommending it.

    1. Thanks for commenting Tracy and I'm glad you like the sound of this one. I would certainly recommend it.

  2. I like the sound of this. Thanks for the review

    1. Thanks for commenting Lucy. I hope you get chance to read this one too.


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