Skip to main content

Source: By Yvonne Condes April 4, 2011

Robert Goolrick came to Westwood to speak about his latest book, the No. 1 New York Times best-seller A Reliable Wife, but he also talked about the craft of writing and what makes a good book.

One of the things wrong with literature today is that it lacks story and plot and focuses too much on the author’s voice, Goolrick told the group that packed the Westwood Village Synagogue Thursday night. But that’s not what people remember.

“It’s the story we remember,” he said. “I wanted to write a book with a great story.”

And according to interviewer Julie Robinson of Literary Affairs, he did. She said that people are always talking about finding the perfect book club book. Well, with A Reliable Wife, she found it.

“You hit it out of the ballpark,” she told Goolrick.

How did he come to write the perfect book club book, a follow-up to his devastating, bestselling and critically acclaimed memoir, The End of the World As We Know It? He explained that when he was a child, his sister had a book called The Park That Spring Forgot. Spring was a symbol of how we find ways to get back to our true heart, he said. “I wanted to write a book about that.”

It’s set in 1907 partly because he didn’t want his characters to go to the bathroom outside and partly because it was a time without the distraction of the Internet, cellphones and television. The book is about a couple that meets after the man puts an ad in the newspaper looking for a wife.

Both characters are damaged during their young lives. The novel, as well as in Goolrick’s memoir, addresses the complexities of childhood and how one survives it, he said. “Childhood is a very dangerous place. None of us ends up unharmed.”

Goolrick’s memoir is about his deeply flawed parents, their alcohol abuse, and his suicide attempt later in life. A horrible childhood secret revealed in the book shaped his life.

When asked before the event if it was easier talking about his latest book than his memoir he said, “I’m never quite free of it.” Most people who have read one have read the other.

“It’s easier to talk about a work of fiction than your own life,” he said.

The event was presented by the Friends of the Westwood Library as part of its ongoing series of Book Talks; more than $2,500 was raised. Desserts were donated by the Napa Valley Grille, and coffee from Peets. The Westwood Village Synagogue donated the space.