"Let me tell you something, son.
When you're young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand-new penny, but before you get to wonderful you're going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you're ever going to go."

It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of a few hundred people, nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money.

Finding work at the local butcher shop, Charlie befriends the owner and his family, including the owner's son, Sam, who he is soon treating as though he were his own flesh and blood. And it is through the shop that Charlie gradually meets all the townsfolk, including Boaty Glass, Brownsburg's wealthiest citizen, and most significantly, Boaty's beautiful teenage bride, Sylvan.

This last encounter sets in motion the events that give Goolrick's powerful tale the stark, emotional impact that thrilled fans of his previous novel, A Reliable Wife. Charlie's attraction to Sylvan Glass turns first to lust and then to a need to possess her, a need so basic it becomes an all-consuming passion that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path.

Told through the eyes of Sam, now an old man looking back on the events that changed his world forever, Heading Out to Wonderful is a suspenseful masterpiece, a haunting, heart-stopping novel of obsession and love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.


"Deliciously dark and dangerous."

O, The Oprah Magazine

"A suspenseful tale of obsessive love."


"I love Robert Goolrick's Heading Out to Wonderful. The novel's seductive power and the beauty of his writing create a delicious feast for the reader."

–Kathryn Stockett,
author of The Help

"[A] soulful and heart-wrenching tale of love that knows no bounds."

Family Circle

"Beautifully written, striking in its imagery, Heading Out to Wonderful is a passionate and tragic story of a love affair that is entirely consuming yet completely forbidden. Robert Goolrick has crafted another rich, evocative, and sometimes unsettling story."

–Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain

"A captivating novel . . . an ideal choice for book clubs."

The Missourian

"This impressive, hypnotic tale . . . It's gorgeous."

January Magazine

"A pleasure to read—heartbreaking but inspiring and unforgettable."


"Goolrick's tale of doomed love resonates like a folk ballad, with the language of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its people giving this novel its soul . . . Like any good ballad, the narrative builds slowly to its violent climax, packs an emotional punch, and then haunts readers with its quintessentially American refrain."

–Publishers Weekly

"A mesmerizing gothic tale of a good man gone wrong . . . Goolrick effortlessly creates a timeless, erotically charged tale of illicit passion and peoples it with a unique cast of characters . . . Finely crafted fiction from a captivating writer . . . [A] terrific sophomore effort."

–Booklist, starred review

"A gorgeous, haunting, page-turning love story, and a graceful and nuanced meditation on fate, childhood, and the intricate tangles of small-town life. I enjoyed Heading Out to Wonderful even more than A Reliable Wife."

–Jill Owens, Powell's Books
Portland, OR

"Robert Goolrick tells the haunting story of an enigmatic world, with characters as richly drawn as any I've ever encountered. This remarkable novel is one that no reader will soon forget."

–Mitchell Kaplan, Books & Books
Miami, FL