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“The thing is, all memory is fiction.” With that line Sam begins to tell the story of Charlie, who wandered into Sam’s quiet Virginia town in 1948 when Sam was only 5 years old. “No crime had ever been committed” in this town. People believed in God. The doors were never locked. It was a time where “the terrible American wanting hadn’t touched yet. Most people lived a simple life without yearning for things they couldn’t have.”

Charlie comes into town with just a suitcase full of money and a set of fine knives. He gets a job as a butcher and buys land that makes “his heart beat in certain way.”

But Charlie does yearn for something he cannot have—a married woman whose husband is despised in the town because he purchased her in an offer that could not be refused. Young Sam is a witness to it all: the wonderful, and then the wonderful turning into something terrible. Six decades later, Sam must part with the land Charlie bequeathed to him when he was just a child. And he tells the tragic story as he remembers it.

Based on a story Goolrick once heard, Heading Out to Wonderful, his second novel, is not for the faint of heart. And yet Goolrick’s narrative is as gentle and redemptive as it is harsh and heartbreaking. (Algonquin)

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