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The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Lifeby Robert Goolrick
Synopses & Reviews
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."
"Goolrick begins his debut work with a moment he hopes will bring him closure — returning to his Southern home to bury his abusive father. Peeling away the family's carefully constructed facade like the layers of an onion, this brave memoir tells of a childhood marred by alcoholism and an adulthood mired in loneliness, substance abuse and self-mutilation. The son of an indolent college professor and an unfulfilled, Valium-placated housewife, Goolrick grows up in a 1950s home where lavish cocktail parties and false bourgeois airs are sacred, and disclosing the family's slightest imperfection is sinful. Goolrick is never forgiven for his own minor trespasses, despite showering his struggling, status-hungry parents with extravagant gifts (he even resorts to buying them the family home they could never afford to own). Eventually it is revealed that their unhealthy dynamic and Goolrick's attempted suicide stem largely from a single, life-altering incident: his rape by his drunken father at the age of four. In the end, Goolrick has written a moving, unflinchingly rendered story of how the past can haunt a life." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The End of the World as We Know It is barbed and canny, with a sharp eye for the infliction of pain." Janet Maslin, New York Times
"[An] exquisite memoir that everyone should read." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Robert Goolrick reflects on his appalling Southern gothic childhood and the lifelong emotional hangover that followed. (Grade: B+)" Entertainment Weekly
It was the 1950s, a time of calm, a time when all things were new and everything seemed possible. A few years before, a noble war had been won, and now life had returned to normal.
For one little boy, however, life had become anything but "normal."
To all appearances, he and his family lived an almost idyllic life. The father was a respected professor, the mother a witty and elegant lady, someone everyone loved. They were parents to three bright, smiling children: two boys and a girl. They lived on a sunny street in a small college town nestled neatly in a leafy valley. They gave parties, hosted picnics, went to church--just like their neighbors. To all appearances, their life seemed ideal. But it was, in fact, all appearances.
Lineage, tradition, making the right impression--these were matters of great importance, especially to the mother. But behind the facade this family had created lurked secrets so dark, so painful for this one little boy, that his life would never be the same.
It is through the eyes of that boy--a grown man now, revisiting that time--that we see this seemingly serene world and watch as it slowly comes completely and irrevocably undone.
Beautifully written, often humorous, sometimes sweet, ultimately shocking, this is a son's story of looking back with both love and anger at the parents who gave him life and then robbed him of it, who created his world and then destroyed it.
As author Lee Smith, who knew this world and this family, observed, "Alcohol may be the real villain in this pain-permeated, exquisitely written memoir of childhood--but it is also filled with absolutely dead-on social commentary of this very particular time and place. A brave, haunting, riveting book."
About the Author
Robert Goolrick worked for many years in advertising. He lives in New York City. This is his first book.
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