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This Isn't Going to End Well

The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew

By Daniel Wallace

In this powerful memoir, the bestselling author of Big Fish tries to come to terms with the life and death of his multi-talented longtime friend and brother-in-law, who had been his biggest hero and inspiration, in a poignant, lyrical, and moving memoir.

If we’re lucky, we all encounter at least one person whose life elevates and inspires our own. For acclaimed novelist Daniel Wallace, he had one hero and inspiration for so much of what followed: his longtime friend and brother-in-law William Nealy. Seemingly perfect, impossibly cool, William was James Dean, Clint Eastwood, and MacGyver all rolled into one, an acclaimed outdoorsman, a famous cartoonist, an accomplished author, a master of all he undertook, William was the ideal that Daniel sought to emulate. 
But when William took his own life at age 48, Daniel was left first grieving, and then furious with the man who broke his and his sister’s hearts. That anger led him to commit a grievous act of his own, a betrayal that took him down a dark path into the tortured recesses of William’s past. Eventually, a new picture of William emerged, of a man with too many secrets and too much shame to bear. 
This Isn’t Going to End Well is Daniel Wallace’s first foray into nonfiction. Part love story, part true crime, part a desperate search for the self and how little we really can know another, This Isn’t Going to End Well tells an intimate and moving story of what happens when we realize our heroes are human.

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Daniel Wallace

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Review quotes
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Garden & GunGoodreadsBookPage, Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionDeep South Magazine, & Greenville Journal
“A revelatory and reflective tale about how males perceive others and how they present themselves.  More than anything, I felt compassion for their vulnerability and fear, and made me realize perhaps we are not so different, men and women, after all.”
— Sandra Cisneros, author of Martita, I Remember You
“In This Isn't Going to End Well, you will find the expected Daniel Wallace clarity, humor, and precision. But you will not find fiction. This is a true story about Daniel himself and his wild-man mentor and relative, William Nealy. Few writers can so seamlessly thread together love, loss, admiration, fear, pain, and hope. And this narrative is not traditional memoir-fare. It moves magically—unlike any traditional genre you’ve ever read. At times I experienced that thrill-feeling of a roller coaster dropping away from beneath me. This book is a rare gem gift from one of our very best writers.”
— Clyde Edgerton, author of Raney
“Daniel Wallace has written a ghost story – not the kind you have read before. It is a haunting story about a person he loved and, at times, loathed, who influenced the author’s life in ways never to be fully known or seen – a shimmering. Wallace -- whose prose is the truest kind, brave and somewhere between sharp-edged facts and magic -- chooses to “get in the cage with the tiger”, in this case, his brother-in-law William Nealy. Nealy is the famed cartoonist, writer, and whitewater adventurer who lived to defy death daily, until he didn’t. Wallace takes us to the edge of what scares us, death by suicide, and miraculously (no, skillfully) writes a book on grace.
     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.”
— Terry Tempest Williams, author of Erosion – Essays of Undoing
“Daniel Wallace has, once again, shown himself to be an exquisite storyteller.  Like bourbon, this book goes down hot and strong but finishes with a salving sweetness which can only be called a blessing.  A love story and a ghost story a once, This Isn’t Going to End Well straddles the line between present and past, truth and beauty.”
— Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage
“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 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 eulogy, a cautionary tale, a love letter and a sob of anger.”
— New York Times Book Review
“‘Unflinching’ is a word publishers like to use to describe memoirs. This Isn’t Going to End Well deserves the description as Mr. Wallace grapples with the past. It sounds like a heavy read, but it’s almost deceptively easy… Masterly.”
— Wall Street Journal
“A heart-cracking exploration of the ways we construct ourselves, and how, despite any facade, no matter how bold, it can all come tumbling apart.”
— Garden & Gun
"Exceptional… simultaneously sharp-edged and loving, honest and painfully haunting."
— BookPage
“Gripping… A story about the difference between the person we present to the world and the person we really are. It’s the gap between those two versions of ourselves that Wallace mines in this warts-and-all love letter to male friendship.”
— Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Gracefully written (Wallace is incapable of writing an ugly sentence)… [Wallace] has done a heroic job here of trying to understand what we finally cannot know.”
— Alabama Public Radio / Don Noble's Book Reviews
“Piercingly sad, but beautiful.”
— Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A tribute, a memoir and a mystery... Heartbreaking and funny.”
— WUNC (North Carolina Public Radio)
“[Daniel Wallace] writes like no other Southern writer I’ve ever read… This Isn’t Going to End Well is deeply moving, as any reader of Wallace’s fiction would expect.”
— Salvation South
“[A] brutally honest and true retelling of the life and impact of famous cartoonist William Nealy… championed by [Wallace’s] skillful narration and candid voice.”
— Deep South Magazine
“In exploring his own particularly complicated grief, Wallace reveals his coming of age as a writer, the tragic yet inspiring life of his sister Holly, and a cast of larger-than-life characters as beguiling as any of his fictional inventions… Moving and unforgettable.”
— Chapter16
“[Wallace] crafts a compelling narrative that pulls the reader headlong into a story whose energy never wanes. He’s thoughtful and thought-provoking... and he writes with courage and candor… [This Isn’t Going to End Well] is a memoir borne of intense experience and introspection, which is the only available panacea for what troubles us.”
— PineStraw Magazine
“Gripping... sensitively and respectfully compiled.”
— Southern Review of Books
“It is not too much of a stretch to call this tale a Shakespearean tragedy. And it is powerfully and eloquently written.”
— Star News
“[A] moving meditation on memory, mortality, and masculinity and a beautifully written mixture of memoir and true detective story.”
— Yes! Weekly
“Novelist Wallace (Big Fish) pays loving tribute to his late brother-in-law, William Nealy, in this deeply felt memoir… Wallace’s elegiac narrative shimmers with deep admiration for a man who always played by his own rules and stood by the people he loved. This will entrance readers from the first page.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Wallace’s storytelling skill captures the vibrant personality Nealy showed the world, and his emotional candor the tragedy of a good man ‘who was toxic only to himself.’”
— Booklist
“A bold and compassionate exploration of male friendship and the devastating impact of suicide.”
— Kirkus Reviews
"Heartbreaking and real."
— Garden & Gun, "The Best New Books for Southerners in 2023"
“A mesmerizing combination of memoir and biography.”
— Largehearted Boy
Product Details
Number of pages
Publication date
April 11, 2023