Synopses & Reviews
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."
"Stunning... a dark, glimmering jewel of a book. There were moments when the language was so lush and clear and haunting that I was caught up short." Alison Smith
"Goolrick adeptly uses a slow, teasing way of revealing himself to the reader... 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
"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." People
"A moving, unflinchingly rendered story of how the past can haunt a life." Publishers Weekly
"[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
"A devastating debut memoir about a Southern childhood....The language is lush and poetic while never becoming purple. Goolrick is clearly a victim of his parents' brutal abuse, but he has broken out of the categories of 'victim' and 'survivor' to become a powerful truth-teller." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"In this profoundly crushing yet redemptive memoir, Goolrick peels back his skin for the reader. Through gorgeous prose, he gradually discloses layer upon layer of deplorable abuse, and as the coating underneath becomes exposed, so too does an exquisitely sensitive soul, whose self-awareness is so uniquely well articulated, it would shock me if the reader's heart went unchanged." Amanda Stern, author of The Long Haul
"A devastating debut memoir about a Southern childhood. A simple summary of the storyline of this memoir might inspire an eye-roll: Do we really need another tale about someone growing up in a South of days-gone-by, surrounded by eccentric relatives and neighbors, with a little alcoholism and incest thrown in for good measure? But Goolrick takes that tired scenario and makes it magical. He recounts a Virginia childhood worthy of William Styron and Flannery O'Connor. The deformed weirdos, a staple of Southern grotesque, are here, including severely retarded aunt Dodo, who one day asked young Robert to kiss her passionately. Here, too, are cocktail parties that would have inspired Douglas Sirk: Goolrick describes the lavish fetes his parents threw, the lovely chiffon dresses his mother wore. But something was off-kilter, at even the grandest parties. The chiffon dresses always wound up with cigarette burns, and the hectic entertaining was artifice and pretense, a frantic effort to cover up alcoholism and other, more hideous, family secrets. The author interweaves scenes from his childhood with scenes from his adult life: his mother's attempt to get dry, his own breakdown and drinking problem, his mother's death. One of the most gripping and emotionally insightful passages is of his father's funeral, where Goolrick makes clear how hard it is to bury a man you haven't forgiven. The language is lush and poetic while never becoming purple. Goolrick is clearly a victim of his parents' brutal abuse, but he has broken out of the categories of 'victim' and 'survivor' to become a powerful truth-teller."
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review Kirkus Reviews
"Clear, forceful, and even melodious writing...an exquisite memoir that everyone should read."
—Minneapolis Star-Tribune Minneapolis Star Tribune
In the tradition of Rick Bragg's All Over but the Shoutin', Goolrick has crafted a classic memoir of childhood and the secrets a heart can't forget. 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.
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.
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. To all appearances, they lived an almost idyllic life. Two respected, charming parents everyone loved. Three bright, smiling children. A lovely home on a quiet street nestled in a small college town. But behind the facade this family had created lurked secrets so dark, so painful for one little boy, that his life would never be the same.
With devastating honesty and razor-sharp wit, Goolrick looks back at this seemingly serene time and at the parents who gave him life and then robbed him of it, who created his world and then destroyed it.
About the Author
In addition to his most recent novel, The Fall of Princes, Robert Goolrick is the author of three other books: The End of the World as We Know It, a memoir; his first novel, A Reliable Wife, with sales of more than 1 million copies; and his second novel, Heading Out to Wonderful. He lives in Virginia.