In the tradition of Mary Karr's The Liars' Club and Rick Bragg's All Over but the Shoutin', Robert Goolrick has crafted a classic memoir of childhood and the secrets hidden in a heart that can't forget. In the Goolrick home there was a law: Never talk about the family in the outside world, never reveal the slightest crack in the facade. In The End of the World as We Know It, the author takes us back to the seemingly idyllic world his father and mother created in their home in a small Southern college town, a world of gentle men and lovely ladies and cocktails and party dresses—a world being eroded by a family history of alcoholism. As Goolrick grew to be a man, his childhood held memories that would not let go, memories that held a secret that followed him wherever he went, defining and directing his days. Over time, the secret grew so big it threatened to rip the world apart. And then it did.

With devastating honesty and razor-sharp wit, he looks back with love, and with anger, at the parents who both created his world and destroyed it. As Lee Smith (author of On Agate Hill) observed, "Alcohol may be the real villain in this pain-permeated, exquisitely written memoir of a Virginia childhood—but it is also filled with absolutely dead-on social commentary of this very particular time and place. A brave, haunting, riveting book."


"[An] unnerving, elegantly crafted memoir. . . . Morbidly funny."

–Entertainment Weekly

"A gifted writer['s]...memorable account of his terribly flawed family. ...Searing...It stays with you."

–USA Today

"In this brutally painful remembrance of hard drinking, attempted suicide, and childhood trauma, first-time author Goolrick constructs a well-written, nonlinear narrative of his life...Goolrick's memory of the details of his childhood is impressive, as is the deep sense of sorrow...the story evokes. A courageous and successful work."


"Goolrick adeptly uses a slow, teasing way of revealing himself to the reader...Anecdotes of captivating vitality....The End of the World As We Know It is barbed and canny, with a sharp eye for the infliction of pain."

–The New York TImes

"A moving, unflinchingly rendered story of how the past can haunt a life."

–Publishers Weekly