Author: John Corey-Whaley
Release date: May 3, 2011
How I got it: Library
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.Where Things Come Back had so many cool things for it: a cool premise, a great sense of humor, a likable main character, a setting that at times felt like my own town. However, this is one I only liked and didn't love.
Where Things Come Back has several cool aspects to it. I specifically loved how it follows one character, then another he knew, then someone she dated...it all connected and for a while it confused me, but once it clicked it was really cool. For the first time I closed a book and I felt connected. To the earth and the people on it, to my decisions and how it affects people. That was really cool.
Cullen sometimes talks about himself in third person and puts himself in hypothetical situations. Done well, this could be cool, and not confusing. Done the way Corey-Whaley did it, it was very confusing. I often had to go back and re-read things to see just who we were talking about here.
Despite that, Where Things Come Back left me feeling less emotional and invested than I thought I'd be.
Plot: Definitely interesting.
Characters: Loved their witty banter.
Writing: Despite the occasional third person, I liked it.
Ending: Very fitting.
Kid friendly? There was swearing and sex.
I read this book in two days but very little of it actually stayed with me.
Between its short pace and surprisingly compelling plot, I finished it quickly, though I didn't love it.