An Assault on the Reader (And That’s High Praise)

When you end up feeling devastated for the little boy who was Robert Goolrick you will feel like it is THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT, the title of his coming-of-age memoir.

It’s hard for me to write about this book.

Goolrick’s memoir is lyrical and beautiful and tantalizing and glittering. It also presents two viewpoints of the same characters–a sophisticated intellectual family–and the bottom-of-the-barrel people that they became. But the way Goolrick balances these things, you don’t realize what is coming.

Then he slams the reader with betrayal and brutality.

Yes, I mean that the reader is assaulted. But Goolrick does so to re-enact how he, as a little boy, was assaulted with betrayal and brutality.

What I learned from this book (aside from the fact that there are books so amazingly written I can’t even hope to follow their model) is that it is possible to withhold something important until way way way into a book.  It’s not only possible, but it can be stunning.

I walked around feeling stunned two, maybe three, weeks after I finished reading this book. A few years out, I still feel a little stunned. Now that is a memoir.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

18 responses to “An Assault on the Reader (And That’s High Praise)

  1. your reaction is very similar to my own … Goolrick is a fine writer, crafting a stunning memoir. I was in the audience as he did his first public reading of this book and we were all mesmerized. His fiction is masterful as well. I met him a few years ago at the Creative Non-fiction Conference in Oxford, MS, and he is humble and helpful for those of us who struggle with writing our truths.

  2. Wow, Luanne…you’re reaction to this book has me intrigued. I’ll have to check it out on Amazon.

  3. This sounds like a really interesting memoir. You’ve got me curious about it.

  4. I know it’s a work of fiction, but I felt this way about The Prince of Tides. I am still stunned when I think about that novel.

    • Luanne

      mm, can you believe I haven’t read that book?! I’ve been told that I have to read it and somehow it never got on my list! I have to read it!

      • It is definitely a similar experience to this memoir. I remember being just stunned, as you said, and having to put the book down and just process the revelation for awhile. Didn’t see it coming AT ALL. An amazing book.

  5. That’s quite a review! Makes me need to check it out.

  6. Luanne

    It’s gut-wrenching, but as you read it you feel as if you absolutely have to keep reading. This is one book you can’t put down for any reason.

  7. Luanne,

    I definitely will check this memoir out. Words that linger days later are the kind of books I want to read. Thanks.

  8. Luanne, you have definitely piqued my interest in this memoir. I just finished reading HER by Christa Parravani, about the experience of being a twin and losing her twin sister. Raw, intense, hard to read BUT it moved me deeply and will be with me for a long time to come.

    • Luanne

      Kathy, I haven’t heard about that memoir. You make it sound like one I have to put on my list! When a memoir sticks with you for a long time, that is really the test, I think.

  9. Will be reading this one! J.ILLXO

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