The End of the World as We Know It by Robert Goolrick
Scenes from a Life

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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."

About Robert Goolrick

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In addition to A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick is the author of the acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. He lives in a small Virginia town.
Published April 15, 2008 by Algonquin Books. 242 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Parenting & Relationships, Self Help, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The End of the World as We Know It

Kirkus Reviews

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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.

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The New York Times

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It follows the senior Goolricks from high times to low ones, when “my mother and father went on until they didn’t care enough to read or dress or cut their own toenails or defend themselves against alcoholism and cancer and filthiness and disrepair and rats in the house.” Against this backdrop, i...

Mar 26 2007 | Read Full Review of The End of the World as We Kn...

Entertainment Weekly

In The End of the World as We Know It, his unnerving, elegantly crafted memoir, Robert Goolrick reflects on his appalling Southern gothic childhood and the lifelong emotional hangover that followed.

Mar 16 2007 | Read Full Review of The End of the World as We Kn...


Like most books about unhappy children in dysfunctional families, The End of the World as we Know It is difficult to put down.

May 08 2007 | Read Full Review of The End of the World as We Kn...

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