Review Where Things Come Back
Review Where Things Come Back
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-rending summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.
As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.
“A disturbing, heartbreaking finale that retains a touch of hope.” ― Publishers Weekly, starred review
Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz award
Winner of the 2012 William C. Morris award
A Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2011 selection
Where Things Come Back Customer Reviews:
Most helpful customer reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful.
The revival of great Southern storytelling
By Lisa Reed
A few years ago, I lamented to a coworker that great Southern storytelling – the kind that held you to the feet of your grandfather, hanging on his every melodious word as he took you to a place that was distant yet familiar; heart-wrenching but hilarious – was dead. It was a lost art of a past generation.I was wrong.John Corey Whaley proved me wrong and I’m grateful.Where Things Come Back immerses you into the quirky world of the small Southern town. Like many small towns, it’s a place where everyone knows everyone else….on the surface…but rarely get to know the underlying fears, motivations and anxieties of the people they interact with everyday. It’s a place where the unique lifelong bond of brothers is made stronger by sharing not only blood, but an intellectual curiosity that is outside the norm. It’s a place where close friends are often the only salvation from chronic, terminal boredom.I had such a great time reading this book that I bought an extra copy – one to keep for myself and one to pass along and share with family and friends.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
If you have hope, you have everything
By Casey Carlisle
Actual rating 3.5 starsAdmittedly, I picked up this book solely due to buzz on some blogs and the awards it had received with little idea what it was about before turning the first page. It did take me a while to get into, but once I got hooked, I loved it. I guess because I’m not a huge fan of the mystery genre – I do like mystery, but not detective and sleuth novels. If it’s entwined in a larger plot I tend to enjoy it more – and that is what happened with ‘Where Things Come Back.’The symbolism in this book is massive – and if you read them right, there is a depth in meaning reflecting society, attitude and the mystical. But the narrative also feels lazy, indicative of the slow paced townsfolk, and I have to believe that was on purpose to bring an ambiance around this tale.There is a certain dry, dark undertone, just as there is a resilience, maturity and sense of fate. All of which make this novel literature, as opposed to a mass market paperback. I enjoyed the elements of sophistication, but appreciated that on the surface it’s a story about a boy hoping to find his kidnapped brother, frustrated at the towns distracted mentality around the celebrity of the Lazarus Woodpecker.I did enjoy the ending – and it kept me guessing right up until the end. With a contemporary you can never be completely confident of the outcome. But the conclusion wraps everything up succinctly in a way that echoes in your head for a while afterward.It could be a little busy for a younger audience, not necessarily understanding the nuances of the story. Plus that dryness I mentioned, slowed the pace somewhat, where on occasion I wanted to skip forward. I was also frustrated in some parts – masterfully elicited by the narrative – which diminished my enjoyment level because I like to escape with uplifting stories through my reading.This is a great book, something I would recommend to read. There is boatloads of meaning hidden beneath its words, a quaint story, but not the most enjoyable read. But I’m glad to have added it to my collection. I can see why it has won the awards it has.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
patience is needed, but it’s worth it in the end
Where Things Come Back is a combination of two stories. The first one involves a boy named Cullen Witter who’s 17 and in his senior year of high school. He lives in the small town of Lily, Arkansas where things are pretty dull until suddenly things are not. Cullen’s cousin, Oslo, ends up overdosing and his brother Gabriel who’s 15 vanishes. However, instead of the town focusing on looking for Cullen’s brother, they become obsessed with looking for the extinct woodpecker Lazarus. This man John Barling apparently sighted it and the main focus of this very dull town becomes the bird. If anyone does happen to say something about Gabriel it’s just to apologize and feel bad for Cullen and his family, which he doesn’t appreciate. Things are just not going well for Cullen, but then you have the second story. This one is about a missionary in Africa, Benton Sage, who’s struggling with life and family and throughout the book both tales are told and somehow they end up being woven together.The way that these two story lines ended up intertwining is absolutely mind-blowing and I was definitely surprised because I never saw it coming. The two don’t end up merging together until the very end, but when they did I wasn’t disappointed and I felt like the whole built up and the wait was worth it. You have to have some patience to read this book because I found the beginning to be slow as well as the build up of characters, so it took awhile for me to be able to feel for the characters. However, when it did pick up I breezed through it. John Corey Whaley wrote this book beautifully and I think it’s pure genius. Even though I completed the book, I’m still thinking about it and it’s left an impact. Part of the ending is also left up in the air and you’re the one to decide how you want it to go which I enjoyed. It’s intense and refreshing and the end creeps up on you and just makes you question everything.On the other hand, I had some issues with this book, which is why I didn’t end up giving it five stars. When I was reading from Cullen’s point of view I realized that he would switch from talking in first person to talking in third person. I ended up getting really confused and questioning who was narrating at times because it made it more difficult to keep up with it. Also, since I had a hard time getting into the story and the characters in the first place, it was easier for me to get confused. Later on, when the story picked up I was able to move past the switching of tenses and realize the true depth of the story. It’s very moving and thought provoking and it’s interesting to see how Cullen deals with everything and his reactions. Another thing that I had to adjust to is how blunt and straightforward everything was told. For example, when Gabriel disappears it happens out of nowhere and it felt as if someone just woke you up by dumping water on your face. I also eventually moved past that too and ended up liking that aspect of it. You just have to push through the beginning because once you get past that you won’t want to put it down. I would recommend this to anyone who’s not looking for an ordinary contemporary because this definitely isn’t ordinary. I loved the writing style and I also loved how even though it was a contemporary, romance wasn’t a big aspect of it at all. Overall I was pleasantly surprised by this book and wouldn’t actually mind reading it again.
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