Review: This Isn’t Going to End Well

This Isn’t Going to End Well, Daniel Wallace. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2023.

Summary: The story of William Nealy, as told by his brother-in-law, a cartoonist, guru of adventure sports, and emulated by the author, all the while harboring a secret within that finally killed him.

The First Time I saw him he was standing on the roof of our house, wearing frayed and faded cutoffs and nothing else, eyeing the swimming pool about twenty-five feet below. William. Last name unknown, unnecessary. Already–in my mind, at least–he had achieved the single name status of a rock star, and I had yet to even meet him. I’d only heard about him from Holly, my sister, who was older than me by six years. My sister’s boyfriend was on the roof.

This Isn’t Going to End Well, p. 3

William was William Nealy, the author’s brother-in-law. For years, Daniel Wallace would admire him. He could fix anything. He was fearless, whether diving off a roof, white waterrafting, kayaking, or mountain biking. He was also an underground cartoonist. Several of his books on whitewater rafting, kayaking, and mountain biking are legendary. His maps of rivers, cartoon-like, are incredibly detailed and accurate, and as we learn, how he began to make money on his art. He’d lived near death since age 9 when he saw it up close when twins he was on a scouting trip with were buried under an overhang. Some thought it changed him.

Wallace wanted to be him–cartoonist, writer. He was a kind of big brother. They’d go to movies, William sneaking in beer. He fixed Wallace’s waterbed. There were drugs as well. And Wallace did follow him as a writer, even though they grew apart after Wallace married.

And there was Holly. They saw others but William and Holly just kept coming back to each other. Then at twenty-one, Holly was diagnosed with a debilitating and progressive form of rheumatoid arthritis. William cared for her for the next twenty five years, making life possible for her while he did most of the work on their small farm, a retreat, really, in the woods. Then one day he went up to their houseboat, then into the woods behind the marina office, and shot himself. Several years later, Holly finally succumbed to the disease that had afflicted her all her adult life.

William’s death seemed inexplicable. He seemed the most alive person Wallace had ever known. He had everything going for him. Only after Holly’s death did Wallace discover the secret burden William carried for decades as he cleaned out there house and went through William’s journals, coming to terms with the mix of emotions around William’s life, manner of death, and their friendship.

Nealy was something of a cult figure. This work is an intimate glimpse into the man behind the cult figure. It also gives us a glimpse into the complicated feelings that follow suicide, and the reality that what we see on the outside may not reflect what the person we think we know struggles with within.

For anyone struggling with thoughts of suicide or who is concerned for someone or needs emotional support, the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is open 24/7. The call is free and confidential.

Or, text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the United States, anytime. Crisis Text Line is here for any crisis. A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds, all from a secure online platform.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program.

One thought on “Review: This Isn’t Going to End Well

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: March 2023 | Bob on Books

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