The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

Heading Out to Wonderful

Sam Haislett narrates Heading Out to Wonderful (B) by Robert Goolrick as he reminisces about Charlie Beale.  Charlie came into Sam’s life when Sam was five years old.  Charlie, a war veteran, is searching for a new place to call home.  He travels from town to town in his pick up truck with two suitcases, one filled with lots of cash and the other with his set of butcher knives.  Once he decides on Brownsburg, he meets Sam’s father, Will, the town butcher and begins to work with him in his shop.  Soon, Charlie becomes involved with the Haislett family mostly with their five-year-old son, Sam.

Charlie believes he has found all he needs until Sylvan Glass walks into the butcher shop.  At seventeen, she was purchased by Boaty Glass to be his wife.  She is a beauty with thoughts of grandeur and elegance.  She has modeled herself after Hollywood actresses in dress and manor.  Charlie falls madly in love with her and eventually they become engaged in a love affair.

Goolrick clearly takes on some very big issues here.  Of course, set in the south, the novel addresses the racial climate of the time as well as rich against poor.  What people do for love and money drives the story but Charlie’s involvement with Sam takes the lead.  How depraved is it to involve a five-year-old boy in an illicit love affair?  How far does Charlie’s obsessions push moral and ethical limits?

I didn’t care for Heading Out to Wonderful  as much as The Reliable Wife (A) but Goolrick delivers a powerful novel that brought me into the story quickly. I definitely found myself invested in Sam’s life.  His innocence and involvement in adult situations made me extremely anxious.  I didn’t agree with the portrayal of Charlie as a good man that was consumed by love.  In fact, I felt like there was something unclear about Charlie’s past that played a part in his actions.  Goolrick paints him as a loner since the death of his parents but he also hints that Sylvan is not Charlie’s first romance. It left me to wonder what happened previously and if it played a part in the incidents that take place here.  I definitely felt like a piece of the puzzle was missing.  Perhaps it was intentional, leaving the readers to draw their own assumptions.

All in all, I’d recommend Heading Out to Wonderful and would welcome your opinion too.  I’d love to explore the possibilities that lie between the written lines.





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