One thing I can say about Robert Goolrick, is that he writes gripping tales of doomed love. This second novel, much like his “killer” debut novel, “The Reliable Wife” is another passionate tale of love gone terribly wrong.
Set in 1948, a handsome man named Charlie Beale heads into a sleepy town in Virginia with two suitcases. One is full of money and one is full of knives.
Charlie watches and observes the sleepy town from his campsite near the river and eventually befriends the local butcher and becomes a part of this community. Every night he drives through town looking at the land and eventually he ends up purchasing a lot of property using his suitcase full of money. Soon he owns more than anybody, including the creepy rich guy, Boaty Glass.
A charming man, Charlie becomes the popular guy in town, serving the ladies at the butcher shop and becoming the town baseball coach. Eventually he falls in love with the “bought and paid for” teenaged wife of his town rival, the rich and powerful: Boaty Glass.
And if that isn’t enough, that’s not all. The novel twists and turns and ends up at a place you really don’t expect as it explores the forbidden relationship of Charlie and his lover, Sylvan Glass.
I’ve outlined the main points of the plot which is really interesting, but what sets this book apart is the skillful writing. Typically, I am not a big fan of detailed settings and I tend to skim through long descriptions. However, the entire first chapter is a very detailed description of the town and because it was so entertaining I read it straight through and barely moved a muscle.
One of my favorite lines from the book comes at the end when the narrator is explaining that you have to know the stories of a house to understand life in that place. He says of Charlie, “It’s a harsh story. It is….but you can’t live on the land without knowing the land, you can’t walk on it without knowing that your footsteps are not the first.”
In closing, I typically take at least a week to read a book because of all the distractions that I have in my life. I read this book in one weekend. I am not proud to admit that I was a little cranky with my family because I wanted to get back to Charlie and the story of his footsteps on the land.