“One of the most American books ever written. . . . Thornton Wilder’s best, and most unexpected, book.” –Wilfrid Sheed
Meet George Marvin Brush, one of Thornton Wilder's most memorable characters. Brush, a traveling textbook salesman, is a fervent religious convert who is determined to lead a good life. With sad and sometimes hilarious consequences, his travels take him through smoking cars, bawdy houses, banks, and campgrounds from Texas to Illinois—and into the soul of America itself.
This edition of Heaven’s My Destination includes an illuminating afterword by Wilder’s nephew, Tappan Wilder, that draws on such unique sources as Thornton Wilder’s unpublished letters, business records, and obscure family recollections, adding a special dimension to this hilarious tale about goodness in a fallen world.
About the Author
Thornton Wilder (1897-1975) was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works, exploring the connection between the commonplace and cosmic dimensions of human experience, continue to be read and produced around the world. His Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, as did two of his four full-length dramas, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). Wilder's The Matchmaker was adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly!. He also enjoyed enormous success with many other forms of the written and spoken word, among them teaching, acting, the opera, and films. (His screenplay for Hitchcock's Shadow of Doubt  remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day.) Wilder's many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee's Medal for Literature.
Read an Excerpt
Heaven's My Destination
George Brush tries to save some souls in Texas and Oklahoma. Doremus Blodgett and Margie McCoy. Thoughts on arriving at the age of twenty-three. Brush draws his savings from the bank. His criminal record: Incarceration No. 2.
One morning in the late summer of 1930 the proprietor and several guests at the Union Hotel at Crestcrego, Texas, were annoyed to discover Biblical texts freshly written across the blotter on the public writing-desk. Two days later the guests at McCarty's Inn, Usquepaw, in the same state, were similarly irritated, and the manager of the Gem Theater nearby was surprised to discover that a poster at his door had been defaced and trampled upon. The same evening a young man passing the First Baptist Church, and seeing that the Annual Bible Question Bee was in progress, paid his fifteen cents and, taking his place against the wall, won the first prize, his particular triumph being the genealogical tables of King David. The next night, several passengers on the Pullman car "Quarritch," leaving Fort Worth, were startled to discover a young man in pajamas kneeling and saying his prayers before his berth. His concentration was not shaken when he was struck sharply on the shoulder by flying copies of the Western Magazine and Screen Features. The next morning a young lady who had retired to the platform of the car to enjoy a meditative cigarette after breakfast, returned to her seat to discover that a business card had been inserted into the corner of the window pane. It read:
George Marvin Brush, Representing the Caulkins Educational Press. New York, Boston, and Chicago. Publishers of Caulkins' Arithmetics and Algebras, and other superior textbooks for school and college. Across the top of the card the following words had been neatly added in pencil: Women who smoke are unfit to be mothers. The young lady reddened slightly, tore the card into flakes and pretended to go to sleep. After a few moments she sat up and, assuming an expression of weary scorn, looked about the car. None of the passengers seemed capable of such a message, least of all a tall, solidly built young man whose eyes, nevertheless, were gravely resting on her.
This young man, feeling that he had made his point, picked up his briefcase and went forward to the smoking-car. There almost every seat was filled. The day was already hot and the smokers, having discarded coat and collar, lay sprawled about in the blue haze. Several card games were in progress, and in one corner an excitable young man was singing an interminable ballad, alternately snapping his fingers and stamping his heel to mark the beat. An admiring group was gathered about him, supplying the refrain. Congeniality already reigned in the car and remarks were being shouted from one end of it to the other. Brush looked about him appraisingly, and chose a seat beside a tall leather-faced man in shirt sleeves.
"Sit down, buddy," said the man. "You're rocking the car. Sit down and lend me a match."
"My name is George Brush," said the younger man, seizing the other's hand and looking him squarely and a little glassily in the eye. "I'm glad to meet you. I travel in school books. I was born in Michigan and I'm on my way to Wellington, Oklahoma."
"That's fine," said the other. "That's fine, only relax, sonny, relax. Nobody's arrested you."
Brush flushed slightly and said, with a touch of heaviness, "In beginning a conversation I like to get all the facts on the table."
"What did I tell you, buddy?" said the other, turning a cold and curious eye on him. "Relax. Light up."
"I don't smoke," said Brush.
The conversation did the rounds of the weather, the crops, politics, and the business situation. At last Brush said:
"Brother, can I talk to you about the most important thing in life?"
The man slowly stretched out his full lazy length on the reversed seat before him and drew his hand astutely down his long yellow face. "If it's insurance, I got too much," he said. "If it's oil wells, I don't touch 'em, and if it's religion, I'm saved."
Brush had an answer even for this. He had taken a course in college entitled "How to approach strangers on the subject of Salvation" -- and two and a half credits -- generally followed the next semester by "Arguments in Sacred Debate" -- one and a half credits. This course had listed the openings in such an encounter as this and the probable responses. One of the responses was this, that the stranger declared himself already saved. This statement might be either (1) true, or (2) untrue. In either case the evangelist's next move was to say, with Brush:
"That's fine. There is no greater pleasure than to talk over the big things with a believer."
"I'm saved," continued the other, "from making a goddam fool of myself in public places. I'm saved, you little peahen, from putting my head into other people's business. So shut your damn face and get out of here, or I'll rip your tongue out of your throat."
This attitude had also been foreseen by the strategists. "You're angry, brother," said Brush, "because you're aware of an unfulfilled life."
"Now listen," said the other, solemnly. "Now listen to what I'm saying to you. I warn you. One more peep of that stuff and I'll do something you'll be sorry for. Now wait a minute! Don't say I didn't warn you: one more peep --"
"I won't trouble you, brother," said Brush. "But if I stop, don't think it's because I'm afraid of anything you'd do."
"What did I tell you," said the man, quietly. He leaned over, and picking up the briefcase that was lying between Brush's feet, he threw it out of the window ...Heaven's My Destination
A Novel. Copyright © by Thornton Wilder. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
|George Brush tries to save some souls in Texas and Oklahoma|
|Doremus Blodgett and Margie McCoy|
|Thoughts on arriving at the age of twenty-three|
|Brush draws his savings from the bank|
|His criminal record: Incarceration No. 2|
|The adventure in the barn|
|Margie McCoy gives some advice|
|Good times at Camp Morgan|
|Dick Roberts' nightmares|
|Dinner with Mississippi Corey|
|Further good times at Camp Morgan|
|Important conversation with a girl named Jessie Mayhew|
|Dick Roberts' nightmares concluded|
|George Brush refuses some money|
|First word of Father Pasziewski|
|George Brush drunk and disorderly|
|Sunday dinner at Ma Crofut's|
|More news of Father Pasziewski|
|A moment of dejection in a Kansas City hospital|
|Three adventures of varying educational importance: the evangelist; the medium; first steps in ahimsa|
|The courting of Roberta Weyerhauser|
|Rhoda May Gruber|
|Mrs. Efrim's hold-up man|
|George Brush's criminal record: Incarceration No. 3|
|George Brush meets a great man and learns something of importance about himself|
|A road in Missouri|
|Chiefly conversation, including the account of a religious conversion|
|George Brush again sins against ahimsa|
|Serious conversation in a park|
|Practically an American home|
|George Brush loses something|
|Last news of Father Pasziewski|
|Thoughts on arriving at the age of twenty-four|