Sunday, 12 July 2015

Heading Out to Wonderful - Robert Goolrick

I do enjoy North American fiction.  Is it because it's so different?  Perhaps the pull of a continent so different, but with the same language, entices me.  This is Robert Goolrick's second novel, the first being A Reliable Wife, which was an extremely readable tale, and this too was a page turner, although it is rather darker, and for me, the better of the two.

Charlie Beale arrives, at the end of WW2, in a small town in the shadow of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.  He has cash in one suitcase, and clothes and a set of butchers' knives in the other.  It is unclear where the money or the knives came from, although at some point in the narrative we find the knives are French, so probably he picked them up in France, so he must have seen action?  He doesn't talk much about his past, and all he wants is peace and quiet.  Having found a tiny parcel of land down by the river, he sleeps out there nightly, near the river, under the stars, and finds peace.  He makes friends too, particularly a little boy, Sam, and Sam's parents, Alma and Will.  Will is the town butcher and takes Charlie on in the shop.  Alma helps Charlie by finding him a house to live in and accompanying him to auctions, to fill the house with furniture, kitchen ware and the like.  And that too is a peaceful existence, especially as he takes the child Sam under his wing.  Yes, everything is peaceful, and as in the book title, wonderful.

 Until,one day, a woman in a white dress walks into the butchers. She is Sylvan Glass, wife of the richest man in this little town;  and for Charlie, this is love at first sight.  Trouble ahead for everyone concerned, for there is a secret about Sylvan that she cannot disclose.

You will not find out until the last page or so who is telling the story, and indeed, it does not matter, for it is a story of love and loss, greed and pride, loss of childhood innocence - all so beautifully put together with a sense of foreboding that is tangible.  Be prepared for people behaving as humans always behave, for avoidable things happening, for love to turn out bad.  I'll look forward to another book by Robert Goolrick, any time.
  • Product Details