Having immensely enjoyed A Reliable Wife, I found it necessary to pick up Robert Goolrick’s sophomore attempt at literature, Heading out to Wonderland. And, as literature goes, I was very impressed; I picked up the book and had a very hard time putting it down.
Telling the story of a mysterious traveller whom settles into the quiet, sleepy town of Brownsburg, Virginia, Heading out to Wonderland is a marvelous study in characters, and the difference between right and wrong (along with the subtle grays of everyday life).
Goolrick spins a marvelous tale of Charlie Beale whom appears in town with two suitcases one day, from parts unknown. One suitcase has clothing and a set of German knives. The other suitcase is filled with money. Charlie uses it to set himself up in town, but he isn’t too far from the butcher, his boss and eventual friend, Will. Will’s wife, Alma, and son, Sam, help him get used to life in this small town, that has southern tendencies. It is 1948, and the town is segregated.
The unofficial owner of the town (and most of its land) is ‘Boaty’ Glass, an old friend of Wil’s. And Boaty keeps his wife, Sylvan, very close to him—almost like a prize. And while he is the wealthiest man in town, he is not the nicest. Soon Charlie finds himself drawn to Sylvan, and the two of them start something even more dangerous than they ever imagine.
For me, personally, I was drawn into this story by the character of Charlie. As a reader, you understand he’s mysterious and he has a past—you’re not quite sure what that past may be. And when he befriends Sam, taking the 5 year old under his wing, it seems really fantastic. However, the relationship takes a turn for the worse when Charlie’s relationship with Sylvan takes a turn for the ‘better.’
I was utterly shocked at the end of this novel, and that rarely happens to me, so overall, this was an amazing read.
I bought this on sale, in trade paperback form—check it out at your local bookstore, library or on your ereader!
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Algonquin Books (January 15, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616202793