The End of the World As We Know It by Robert Goolrick

The End of the World As We Know ItThis is a heart wrenching book, but well worth reading. It is well written, and I am glad to know Robert Goolrick’s story since I’m a fan of his two novels, A Reliable Wife, and Heading Out to Wonderful.

This is a disturbing boy to man story that starts in the 1960’s in a small college town in Virginia. The story includes Robert’s older brother, younger sister, father (a professor), mother (a homemaker), and thankfully, his maternal grandmother Miss Nell, who was a strong and kind influence in his life. This true story – at times horrific, and at times, very funny – tells of a family living under a thin veneer of perfection that, in time, cracks and crumbles.

He tells of endless cocktail parties where his parents, preoccupied with appearances, strived to look like the perfect couple, wanting to be envied by their friends. In the meantime, the three children experience varying degrees of collateral damage and straight up abuse. Robert, hands down, gets the worst of it: cruelty from most of the adults in his life, and most tragically, sexual abuse by his father.

As an adult, Robert attempts suicide and ends up in “the loony bin”. He also starts cutting himself and gives pages of painful crimson red descriptions that show how his despair and emotional pain manifest themselves.

“How did they go on?” he asks as he lists memories that fill up eleven pages. “How did he do this?” I wondered while reading this book. How was he able to bare his soul about such painful memories? In a final section at the end of the book, “A Conversation with the Author”, Robert talks of writing this for past and current sexual abuse victims to help expose the reality of this epidemic.

Obviously, this is not an easy read, but it’s very well told, and is a hugely important story.

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