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The End of the World as We Know It: Scenes from a Life

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Home » Books » Health & Wellbeing » Family & Relationships » Abuse

The End of the World as We Know It

Scenes from a Life

By Robert Goolrick

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Format: Paperback, 225 pages
Published In: United States, 01 April 2008
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."

Reviews

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

EAN: 9781565126022
ISBN: 1565126025
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Dimensions: 20.88 x 13.94 x 1.65 centimetres (0.05 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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