This Isn't Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew

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This Isn't Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew

This Isn't Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew

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Novelist Wallace’s first work of nonfiction examines his deep connection to illustrator and outdoor adventurer William Nealy (1953-2001), who was also the author’s brother-in-law and an intimate friend and mentor. Wallace was a teenager when he first met Nealy, who had just recently begun dating his sister, Holly. They would eventually marry, and they remained mutually supportive through Holly’s struggles with debilitating arthritis and Nealy’s bouts with depression, until his death at age 48. Wallace traces their enduring friendship and the many escapades they shared together, from fishing expeditions to illicit drug runs across state lines, and he deftly reveals Nealy’s expansive range of interests and accomplishments. He was also a kind of MacGyver, continually building and fixing just about anything. More significantly, the author relates how Nealy’s gregarious and adventurous approach to living influenced his own life and eventual career as a writer. “He was the one who would give me the idea for the life I ended up living, even if what I ended up doing was nothing like him or what he did,” writes Wallace. “He showed me how it was done: experience, imagine, then create. Every book I’ve written is dedicated to him in invisible ink. I doubt I would have written a one of them without him, or that I ever would have considered being an artist at all.” Though there were signs of Nealy’s mental struggles in the final years leading up to his death, it wasn’t until several years later, as Wallace reluctantly read through Nealy’s private journals, that the long-standing severity of his condition became fully evident, bringing into question much of what he thought he knew about the man. “There were three or four copies of his suicide notes there as well,” writes Wallace. “His driving license, his passport. My heart felt as if it were floating in my chest.”

His work has been published in over two dozen languages, and his stories, novels and non-fiction essays are taught in high schools and colleges throughout this country. His illustrations have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Italian Vanity Fair, and many other magazines and books, including Pep Talks, Warnings, and Screeds: Indispensible Wisdom and Cautionary Advice for Writers, by George Singleton, and Adventures in Pen Land: One Writer's Journey from Inklings to Ink, by Marianne Gingher. Big Fish was made into a motion picture of the same name by Tim Burton in 2003, a film in which the author plays the part of a professor at Auburn University. What a talent, what a career, what a life, and what a treat to relive it all with this most down-to-earth of demigods. Daniel Wallace's first foray into nonfiction is a memoir dedicated to his brother-in-law, fellow author, and complete idol William Nealy. Wallace traces their intertwined lives from their first meeting in 1971 through William's suicide in 2001, and Wallace's own reconciliation with this fact in 2019. Wallace writes about the man he admired so much, the man he modeled his own life after, who influenced so many decisions Wallace himself made in his life, not least of which was to become a novelist. And then he writes about Nealy's death and the aftermath that rippled through he own life, and the twenty years it took for him to understand what happens when heroes die and become flawed humans all over again.There's elements of a number of different styles of story here: the building dread of horror, with enough hints of what's to come, both direct and indirect, that we feel the need to keep marching to the inevitable and sad conclusion; a bit of mystery and murder (which comes as something of a surprise, the murder at least, and gives us some layers of mystery to contend with); memoir and biography both, via the author's personal connection with the subject who is in fact a fascinating and somewhat notable subject; and folklore, which Wallace has always done so well Lastly two. I am surprised by how annoyed I am that the writer did not follow through with his sister's wishes on her deathbed because he became angry at his brother-in-law. His actions felt like those of a scorned lover rather than a brother-in-law who should have, at the top of his mind, his sister's last directions. Coming of age also factors heavily, with healthy doses of young joy (and foolishness) balanced by the view in retrospect of all the things one doesn't see in the moment.

Join Book Club: Delivered to your inbox every Friday, a selection of publishing news, literary observations, poetry recommendations and more from Book World writer Ron Charles. Sign up for the newsletter. I received a copy of this book courtesy of LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.William did everything with an effortless style and served as a model of manhood, an alternative to Daniel’s cautious and conservative father. William’s seize-the-day approach to life gave Daniel the courage to become a writer, and after William and his sister married they weren’t just brothers-in-law but the closest of friends. Thank you to @algonquinbooks for sending me an advanced reading copy of THIS ISN’T GOING TO END WELL: THE TRUE STORY OF A MAN I THOUGHT I KNEW by Daniel Wallace (on sale 4.11.23). Holly was Daniel's sister and William's soulmate. Holly and Nealy were a pair, like a cup and a saucer. She suffered from debilitating arthritis, and he was her hero, her caregiver, her lover. Nealy saw what was troubling everyone else, but evidently no one saw what was really troubling him. Was he ultimately left to drift alone? This book honors William's memory, including his search for justice for his friend Edgar. It is written with so much warmth and honesty, that it cannot fail to touch your heart as you learn what possibly led to his untimely death. Tenderly written by a man who loved him, was influenced by him, and perhaps shaped by him, the book brings to life this fallen hero that few recognized as someone also in need. He did not reveal his own troubled, private thoughts, but instead created an external persona which was that of a brave man of many talents who could do anything he set his mind to do. His brief life had a tragic ending instead of a hero’s welcome because he lived a double life, one private and one public.

A memoir wrapped in an elegy… [that] maps a strangely stunning life… [Wallace] imbues this chronicle with tremendous compassion — for William, for everyone. This Isn’t Going to End Wellgives off the particular radiance of a life lived hard, whatever else: as such, a brand of American bildungsroman. There’s deep satisfaction to its arc, despite its inherent sadness — a wondrous glimpse of the melding, in human doings, of fate, character and serendipity.”― Washington Post A memoir wrapped in an elegy… [that] maps a strangely stunning life… [Wallace] imbues this chronicle with tremendous compassion — for William, for everyone. This Isn’t Going to End Well gives off the particular radiance of a life lived hard, whatever as such, a brand of American bildungsroman. There’s deep satisfaction to its arc, despite its inherent sadness — a wondrous glimpse of the melding, in human doings, of fate, character and serendipity.”― Washington Post With his first memoir, acclaimed writer Daniel Wallace delivers a stunning book that is as innovative and emotionally resonant as his novels. Part love story, part true crime, part a desperate search for the self, This Isn’t Going to End Well tells an intimate and moving story of what happens when we realize our heroes are human. But when William took his own life at age forty eight, Daniel’s heartbreak led him to commit a grievous act of his own, a betrayal that took him down a path into the tortured recesses of William’s past. Eventually a new picture emerged of a man with too many secrets and too much shame to bear. The afterword indicates that Wallace did a huge number of interviews about William's life with all kinds of folks, but they mostly didn't get quoted. It's hard to say what contributions they made, except for in the one chapter where William is convinced that this one rando murdered his friend. Then you saw a bit more input from others.I'm a little miffed I broke my streak of all-female authors in 2023 for this. It's tough to think of this as a memoir, because Wallace only speaks of himself in relationship to William (his brother-in-law whose suicide is the impetus for this book). An it's also tough to think of this as a biography of William, because the coverage of his life is so spotty. Like, did he and Wallace's sister Holly ever get married? I thought they had, but sometimes it seemed like they hadn't. Wouldn't it have been better to make that clear, and to include a wedding scene, if there was one? Mr. Wallace’s older sister, Holly, had just died, at the age of 56, felled by the arthritis she’d endured since she was 21. It’d been 10 years since the suicide of William, Holly’s husband. William was also Mr. Wallace’s role model growing up, the “ringmaster” of his world, a guy he idolized to the point of wanting to copy “the literal shapes of the letters he made.” Now, recalls Mr. Wallace, “I despised him for breaking my already broken sister, for abandoning her, my family, me.” Overwhelmed by love, betrayal, grief and suffering, Mr. Wallace considered the harsh justice of earlier societies. “Now,” he writes, “I understood why.” This brilliantly layered book is about what calls us to write, create, dance and even destroy those we love. What began as Daniel Wallace’s story became my story, too – the writer who lives “in that place between experience and understanding” and is compelled to touch bone regardless of the pain. I love this book. This Isn’t Going to End Well ended too soon -- and like all great ghost stories I want to read it again.” Wallace’s easy writing style is easy to read. His real feeling for Nealy is palpable. The man he emulated, on the outside was rough-hewn, but on the inside, he was angel-smooth. He was gentle, helpful, and so very compassionate, but he was also dangerous, because he was an impulsive risk-taker. He abused drugs and



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