Review: Heading Out to Wonderful

Heading Out to Wonderful
Heading Out to Wonderful
By Robert Goolrick
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, Paperback, 9781616202798, January 2013, 313pp.)

The Short of It:

Complex, well-developed characters and the lure of small town life make Heading Out to Wonderful an entertaining read.

The Rest of It:

The story takes place in Brownsburg, Virginia just after World War II. Brownsburg is a small town, population 538. The kind of simple, southern town you’ve come to know from movies and books. Everyone knows everyone so when a stranger by the name of Charlie Beale arrives, people can’t help but notice. In one hand, he carries a suitcase full of knives and in the other, a whole lot of money. After getting a job at the local butcher, he ends up befriending the butcher’s young, five-year-old son, Sam. The two become inseparable. For a while, it looks as if Charlie has found a place to call home.

Boaty Glass, the richest man in Brownsburg buys himself a young farm girl to become his wife. Sylvan is young and beautiful but not as dumb as Boaty thinks. After securing her place firmly within his home, she transforms herself into a shiny, sparkly thing, surrounded by the best that life has to offer which includes a custom wardrobe made by a woman in town. Impressed with the Hollywood starlets she sees at the movie house, she begins to model herself after them. Wanting nothing but fame and fortune, she begins to resent her time with Boaty and Boaty has taken to putting her in her place, both verbally and physically.

When Charlie Beale sees Sylvan for the first time, he sees a beautiful girl, trapped in a marriage she does not want. The need to save her becomes an obsession and when the two begin to meet regularly, you quickly realize that no good can come of it.

I’m not sure how well-received this book was when it first came out. Following the wickedly good, A Reliable Wife, I am guessing it did pretty well. But for some reason this one slipped past my radar until just recently. I am so glad I finally picked it up.

This book has a little bit of everything. There’s the love triangle of course which makes for some juicy reading, but the small town feel of it and the friendship between Beale and the boy seemed especially tender. There was a sweetness to all the nastiness and Sylvan Glass was such an interesting woman creature. As wicked as she was, I felt as if I understood where she was coming from, which always surprises me. I don’t consider myself a vindictive, conniving human being but I must have a dark streak somewhere because I eat this stuff up.

I enjoyed Heading Out to Wonderful very much.  It’s the type of book that makes you question motive and with characters like Sylvan and Boaty, you could spend hours trying to figure them out. Plus, the writing has that atmospheric quality that always pulls me in. Goolrick’s take on small town life really puts you right in the center of town. It’s quite impressive how quickly I was pulled into the story. If I were to compare his two books, I’d say this one is the tamer of the two, but certainly no less complex than the other.

If you haven’t given his books a try, do so!

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

22 thoughts on “Review: Heading Out to Wonderful”

  1. I was the one of five people in the whole world that didn’t like A Reliable Wife. It wasn’t just a “not like” situation…I hated that book. So of course I’m a little hesitant to try this one. I could probably be convinced, but so far I’ve got a million other things in the queue!

    1. I think know all 5 of the ones that didn’t like it! I know it was likened to a bodice ripper at some point and I see that it could easily be considered that even given its literary feel.


  2. I’m so glad you finally got around to reading this. It’s one of my fav books last year. Just loved it.

    1. It was more complex than I expected it to be from the blurb. I really enjoy his writing.


    1. As is my tendency these days, I listened to some of it in the car and that format worked well too. It’s one of those books that be read in print or listened to on audio without affecting your reading enjoyment. I say that to you because you are such a busy mom! Sometimes, it’s easier to listen to it while doing other stuff around the house.


      1. I need more books on the ipod….I only have 2 but rarely have time to listen to it…she’s demanding; i get about an hour to read when she naps and about an hour when sesame street is on, that’s about it.

        1. It’s hard to read if your little one is on the needy side. My daughter was SO needy. She had to be by my side every second and she had to have my complete attention or she’d pitch a fit. I don’t know how I got through those days, but I did. I guess that means there is hope for you.


    1. I am not able to say which I liked better. They seemed like totally different books to me. I liked Reliable for the page-turning aspect of it, and the fact that she was just so darn evil.

      I liked this one for the setting, and the way Goolrick depicted small time life. But yes, the writing was fab in both.


  3. I commented on your Facebook post, but I wanted to comment here too. Thank you for giving me a push to read this book. I really liked A Reliable Wife, and I’m looking even more forward to this one now.

    1. I don’t comment to your comments here because I can’t comment back to a Twitter login, but I just added your email to my list of contacts so now I can comment directly to you when you stop by my blog! I apologize. I should have added your email a long time ago as I have been following your blog for a while now!

      I hope you do read this one. It isn’t quite a juicy as Reliable but very good.


  4. Loved his first book and I’ve been wanting to read this one for what seems like forever!!

  5. Oh so many books that I own and want to read RIGHT NOW! So looking forward to this one; glad to hear I won’t be disappointed.

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