Robert Goolrick, the author of the hugely successful A Reliable Wife, dropped by the BookPage office a couple of months ago to talk about his new novel, Heading Out to Wonderful. The interview appears in our June issue, and I am so excited that readers can finally get their hands on this book! (It’s on sale today.)
You can read my full interview with Goolrick here; in it, he talks about what he’s trying to say with his work; how his life changed after the success of A Reliable Wife; and why he decided to write a novel that’s based entirely on a true story.
The premise of Heading Out to Wonderful is fairly simple: A stranger comes to a small Southern town in 1948 and changes its residents irrevocably. Since this is a Robert Goolrick novel, though, you know you’re in for more than just a simple story. The writing is pristine and the descriptions beg to be re-read, read out loud and underlined. The story includes love, violence, heartbreak and miracles, and the setting will come alive in your mind.
In person, Goolrick was just as articulate as he is on the page. There were so many quotes that I couldn’t fit in the print interview. Here’s one “outtake” from our conversation:
I think that writers do have an essential truth they’re trying to get across in their work. There is a theme to writers’ works, and I think that you finish a book and you look at it and you think, ‘well that’s not quite exactly what I want to say.’ So you write another book and you hope that the second book or the third book comes closer to saying what you wanted to say in the first place—which is usually, in most writers’ cases, something very simple. It’s a very simple thought that you build these elaborate structures around to try to indicate what you’re trying to say. And in my case, I think it’s something about the nature of several things:
It’s something about the nature of goodness and kindness. And I think it’s also something about the nature of the innocence of childhood and how easily lost that is.
I’ve said this before, but to me childhood is the most dangerous place of all and very few people escape unscarred. I think that my work has to do with the ramifications of that and the result of a childhood in which innocence was lost too soon.
It’s certainly true of Heading Out to Wonderful. And in A Reliable Wife it’s the story of three people, each of whom was abused as a child in one way or another: physically, emotionally, sexually. And how they try to deal with that as an adult and how they try desperately to get back to the innocence they lost as children.
Are you familiar with Goolrick’s work? Will you check out Heading Out to Wonderful?
One note: Whereas I do think that Heading Out to Wonderful will appeal to fans of A Reliable Wife, I also know that some readers found Goolrick’s debut novel to be a bit sensational. (That sort of thing appeals to me, personally, but I can see how some readers might have found the story—hidden identities; poisoning plots, etc.—over the top.) Heading Out to Wonderful has a more realistic feel. There’s still passion, but it feels less pulpy. In any case: Give this novel a try. And recommend it to your book club.