Author Robert Goolrick’s sophomore effort, Heading Out to Wonderful, is worth your time on a long, rainy weekend. Or a road trip. Or the doctor’s office. It doesn’t take very many pages before you are completely engrossed in the tale of Charlie Beale, and his journey to Brownsburg, where his life intersects with that of Will and Alma Haislett, their son Sam, and the residents of this tiny town in Virgina in the late 1940s.
Here’s what you need to know—it’s historical fiction, it’s a love story, and it … doesn’t end well. I’m not saying it’s not a good ending—it’s just, well … I don’t want to give it away. Like The Midwife of Hope River, I find love stories like these so much hotter than that “50 Shades” tripe.
“She took off her dark glasses, very slowly, bowing her head to do it, gentle, graceful. She looked up at Will briefly, nodding hello. Then she just stood, and she turned her head slowly to stare at Charlie Beale. Five seconds. Ten, maybe, no more, but it seemed forever.
His hands were on the counter. He felt the urge to do something, to wipe the butcher block, to jingle the change in his pocket, but nobody moved, and he didn’t either …
…But Charlie Beale had heard her name. Sylvan Glass. She went off in his head and his heart like a firecracker on the Fourth of July. Something dazzling. Something stupendous.
Something, finally, that was wholly and mysteriously wonderful.”
Instantaneous, want-to-die-without-her love at first sight. It doesn’t make sense, but it never does. Goolrick is masterful at painting emotions on the page—it’s as if you can reach out and touch the illicit love between Charlie and Sylvan. Their story, and those separately—Sylvan’s desire to escape her destiny and Charlie’s desire to create the perfect family—are indeed wondrous, and sad, and touching. A great escapist read (and by that, I mean you will love Charlie and despair at his descent into madness, but if you were reading this as a true account in the local paper, you’d probably think he was whack and a creepy stalker dude.)
Me? I’m going to go grow a bubblegum tree.
Heading Out to Wonderful