"[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
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Every boy must face the loss of his childhood innocence. Every son must reconcile his family's imperfections. Rarely are those tasks so arduous and painful as is revealed in Goolrick's unforgettable memoir.
The End of the World as We Know It paints an indelible portrait of a seemingly idyllic Southern college town in the 1950s. The Goolricks were a showroom couple who were "madly in love and did nothing but have fun." Their home was a magical place, especially at cocktail hour, with ice clinking in highball glasses and jokes lobbed around like a badminton shuttlecock. But this charming façade masked a desperate unhappiness and one unmentionable family secret: the memory of an alcohol-induced moment that forever altered the trajectory of a young man's life. Thrown into adulthood before his time, emotionally adrift from his parents, who refused to acknowledge the harm done, Goolrick carried the family secret until it drove him to despair and an attempted suicide.
Filled with a sharp humor that leavens the horror and lingering anger, Goolrick has crafted a brutally honest memoir that spares neither himself nor his family. The End of the World as We Know It is a work of remembrance that finally forgives, yet never forgets. (Summer 2007 Selection)
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. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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.
"Clear, forceful, and even melodious writing...an exquisite memoir that everyone should read."
"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