When someone is sad and hopeless, the last thing they need to feel is that they are the only ones in the world with that feeling So, if you feel sorry for someone, don t pretend to be happy Don t pretend to care only about their problems People aren t stupid Not all of us, anyway If someone s little brother disappears, don t give him a free hamburger to make him feel better it doesn t work Oh, Cullen Witter, would one please stop talking about oneself in third person Where Things Come Back is told mostly from the first person perspective of the young man, Cullen Witter well, except for when he often talks about himself in the third person whose fifteen year old brother disappears Cullen lives in a small town town that just happens to be obsessed with woodpeckers, specifically the long presumed extinct Lazarus Woodpecker Both the town and Cullen Witter develop a strong obsession with the disappearance of the young boy and the possible reappearance of the rare bird.It also follows a third person narration based around a group of religious characters that may or may not have a relation to Cullen s small town and it s obsessions The writing is very dry and far from descriptive It can be rather staccato, especially in the beginning, while it becomes slightly fluid toward the end Though it is a quick read, it can be difficult to stay involved.Strangely, I feel like it was meant as some sort of subliminal messaging for the main character to be called Cullen Like Please read my book young girlssss There is a young man named Cullen He is very sssssensitive like another certain Cullen, but this one doesn t sssssparkle The names in general are just ridiculous.This is getting three stars for the ending and the way everything came together so well Otherwise, it would have been a two, because it just didn t engage me throughout a large part of the book The beginning and middle weren t so strong, but the last 40 pages or so made up for it a bit view spoiler And is it just me, or does the title really give away the ending of the book hide spoiler 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 S 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 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 Than What Cullen Calls, That Damn Bird It S About The Dream Of Second Chances This is one of those stories that heavily relies on the theme that every element, character and symbol was manipulated to evoke said theme and in my observations, that s usually a good thing It s what brings books to literary nominations and stuff In my own personal opinion though, sometimes it s also these same literary elements that interfere with the feels , with the reader s enjoyment of a book and with being able to relate with the characters because often in life, things don t always have symbolic meanings Sometimes, a place is just a place and a bird is just a bird and yet I could still take some sort of appreciation from that simple truth Still, I do appreciate the literary devices, the POVs, the unusual plot structure and how things came together in the end It would be a really good material for academic literary analysis. 3.5 stars.Where Things Come Back is a pretty good debut effort and not so good choice of cover A little hard to describe though.17 year old Cullen Witter is passing his time in a tiny Arkansas town There is nothing interesting or exciting going on Cullen is simply waiting for his final high school year to be over and to move on to a life less dull Everything changes when Cullen s younger brother Gabriel suddenly disappears If Cullen thought his life was bad before, it becomes unbearable now.On the other side of the world, in Ethiopia, 18 year old Benton Sage works as a missionary Soon, however, he abandons his work in search of an occupation that could utilize his skills and his calling better.The best part of Where Things Come Back besides the fact that it is compulsively readable and hard to put down is how these two seemingly unrelated story lines come together through years and continents.What is not so great about this book is that I think it lacks focus Cullen s part of the story is primarily a study of grief It follows Cullen and his friends and relatives and shows how they deal with the disappearance of Gabriel It is a fragmented narrative where characters appear and disappear and go through hard times emotionally Their episodic appearances are mostly with no beginnings or endings I suppose it is reflective of real life and maybe this randomness of life is the main point of the whole novel, but in my fiction I expect and like a better defined, tighter story.Benton s part is even less solid He is just a link in a chain of events that eventually connect the two story lines In the end, I can t help but compare Where Things Come Back to similarly themed Once Was Lost Zarr s book is definitely a rounded, better shaped work Whaley s book, on the other hand, is amorphous and muddy in what it tries to say, but not without its kernels of wisdom I particularly liked this one Life has no one meaning, it only has whatever meaning each of us puts on our own life. If there s one thing I ve learned in the two and a half years since I joined GoodReads, it s this when Maggie Stiefvater recommends a book, I read it Period She had nothing but praise for John Corey Whaley s award winning debut so I ordered it with no questions asked I just did it because Maggie said so Where Things Come Back is such an unassuming little book It s like that small, quiet kid in class other kids never even notice, but if they did, they d see that he is well read and fiercely intelligent and has a bright future ahead of him In Lily, Arkansas, Cullen Witter is living his average life with his average parents and his not so average younger brother He works at a grocery store, doesn t really understand girls and is generally pretty socially awkward Then one day Cullen s brother Gabriel disappears without a trace and his whole life gets turned upside down To add insult to injury, the people in Lily are obsessed with a supposedly extinct woodpecker than with a missing sixteen year old On the other side of the world, Benton Sage is having doubts about the nature of his mission in Africa He feels that handing out food and a prayer isn t enough to save people He wants to do God s work, and passing out food, water and Christ as quickly and efficiently as possible seems far too simple and not nearly enough The two stories come together in a very unexpected way that is sure to take your breath away Whaley has an amazing talent of telling extremely dramatic stories in a decidedly non dramatic way Throughout the book, Cullen seems oddly detached, almost unfeeling, but even when you catch glimpses of his emotions, they re not outbursts but rather quiet confessions from a character who would much rather remain unnoticed This character, and most Whaley s characters, really, are amazing in their simplicity and all of them are unique, from desperate mothers to religious fanatics What you need to know about me is that I don t like to hug people with whom I m not romantically involved I also don t really like to shake people s hands, sit close enough to touch someone, or feel other people s breath on my skin If you re the type of person who likes to do any of those things, then I won t pretend to understand you. Although it won both the William C Morris Award and the Michael L Printz Award, Where Things Come Back is not for everyone It has the feel of a classic and I m certain it s on its way to become one, but like all classics, it requires a certain amount of patience and trust in its author If you have that, this beautiful little literary gem will undoubtedly find its place among your favorites. Amazing. I won a book I won a book on First Reads Where Things Come Back is a YA debut novel about a disgruntled teen in small town Arkansas is there any other kind 17 year old Cullen Witter would be an emo teen if Lily was big enough to support fringe subcultures But he s got all the attributes over sensitive, journal writing, picked on by jocks every town has those , unlucky in love until, of course, he becomes extremely lucky in love, a twist integral to the plot, but whatever The book takes place over one dreary summer, during which the totally undistinguished small town becomes the talk of the nation, apparently, due to the rud reappearance of the Lazarus Bird, a large breed of woodpecker thought gone from the world good thing they gave it such an ironic name In the midst of all this excitement, Cullen s younger brother Gabriel suddenly vanishes without a trace, throwing his family life into turmoil.Cullen s story takes center stage, but is intercut with seemingly unrelated chapters about Benton Sage, a young missionary serving overseas Do you think perhaps these stories will turn out to be not so unrelated after all So, this book was decent It was pretty ambitious for a YA novel, dealing with sex, and abuse, and religion and suicide A lot of the writing is quite nice But I didn t like it very much It hits a lot of hot button areas for me, none hotter than the central voice books from the point of view of sensitive teenage boys are incredibly hit or miss, and it is rare that I find one that strikes me as genuine Nick Nora s Infinite Playlist was really uncomfortably close, until it wasn t Salinger is still the winner here, oh how original of me.Cullen Witter was not my Holden Caulfield In fact, his stilted narration, displaying as it did the vast majority of the first time novelist s most irritating tics, was but one entry on the admittedly rather unfair list of reasons this book didn t really do it for me So, without further ado MY ADMITTEDLY RATHER UNFAIR LIST OF REASONS THIS BOOK DIDN T REALLY DO IT FOR ME 1 The missing Gabriel Witter is described as an elusive and mirthful sprite, with a devil may care attitude when it comes to others opinions of him, an admiration for the music that no one else listens to, a notebook full of song lyrics and a closet full of band t shirts So he is a hipster Perhaps in a small town in Arkansas, the hipster is as rare a beast as a thought to be extinct woodpecker I still have trouble being impressed by someone whose exclusive tastes in unexplored music range no further than Sufjan Stevens and TV On the RadioWhere does he find this stuffCullen marvels after coming across a notebook with the lyrics to Staring at the Sun I don t know, NPR The New York Times Entertainment Weekly Rolling Stone Saturday Night Live They have the internet in Arkansas, right Also his favorite book is Catcher in the Rye, of course.2 Benton Sage is described as having grown up in a militantly Christian evangelical home, with a tyrant father who made him memorize and recite the bible endlessly Yet somehow he s 18 and on a mission trip in Ethiopia, of all places, before he learns about the Nephilim, those angel human hybrids you may have read about in a recent terrible book, even though they are right there in Genesis and Numbers 3 Speaking of Ethiopia, Benton is there for a whole chapter and there is no mention of how delicious Ethiopian food is This took me out of the book somewhat, because if I were writing it, most of it would have been set around a dinner table But not only does John Corey Whaley fail to include such a scene, he in fact invents a dinner scene in which Benton has to choke down a meal Dear Mr Whaley, consider this an open invitation if you are ever in Chicago, I shall take you out for one of the finest inexpensive meals you will ever experience.4 I am from a very small town less than 5,000 people, at least when I lived there While not all small towns are created equal, the small town of Lily, Arkansas did not feel like a real place to me I will overlook the fact that 3,900 people are somehow able to support multiple fast food chains and a Wal Mart the economics don t make sense to me, but I can t say for sure that this is so in the south I cannot get over the fact that the appearance of a perhaps not as extinct as was previously thought woodpecker has everyone in town talking.OK, I can buy that maybe a few restaurants would try to cash in on some woodpecker related media attention, assuming there was somehow any sustained media attention beyond a featured spread in The Audubon Society Newsletter, but come on the woodpecker burger, kids sporting dyed woodpecker haircuts, a woodpecker festival, tourists swarming the town Don t the people have anything better to do, like meth That s what everyone in my town did It reminded me of the stupidest part in The Last Starfighter, when the whole town crowds around to watch Alex beat the top score on a video game People you have a TV Watch it.5 Cullen s relationship with his brother was totally odd Only two years separate them, but Cullen dotes on and romanticizes his brother like he s a precocious 5 year oldOrnithological cannibalism That s even worse I shouted back, before jumping into the air and running down the hallway to my room in a childish manner that only brothers exhibit around each otherReally I am not familiar with that one Josh 6 Cullen is an annoying narrator anyway He likes to occasionally talk about himself in the third person, or in the less personal when one finds oneself blah blah blah way that drove me up the wall Suddenly, halfway through the book, he also starts overusing a bunch of words stuck together with hyphens type adjectives, which, fine, but why didn t he do that earlier Editorial uniformity, please He also affects the habit of coming up with imagined titles for books he will never write, which end each chapter I swear I have seen this somewhere else regardless, it makes me want to punch his face.7 Without spoilers, I thought the way the two stories eventually tied together to be anticlimactic, implausible, poorly motivated and kind of silly.8 The names are all very silly Cullen Witter and Gabriel Witter and Benton Sage and Russell Quitman and Cabot Searcy and Alma Ember The silliness is compounded when they are constantly referred to by their full names, Dawson s Creek style.I guess that s it I am picking on this book It is a fine, upstanding book that just kind of annoyed me for my own reasons, explicated above the same ones that grated when I read the similar The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Looking for Alaska Neither here nor there one of the reviews blurbed on the author s website describes this one as a thriller No This book is not a thriller Unless, perhaps, you live in a town where bird watching is a community wide spectator sport P.S As I said, this was a First Reads win In the spirit of sharing the love, you yes you are welcome to my copy Just PM me with your address, or I will add it to GR swap tomorrow. Claimed what an unexpectedly delightful book.i was given an ARC of this and i looked at it and said gak biiirrrddss and figured i would read it when i got around to it after some awfully gentle prodding, i got around to it and i read the damn thing in one day, tearassing through it with great glee and awe.this book is a sad and unpredictable gem.but with plenty of moments of humor.it opens with a death by overdose and a million instances of the word ass hat a word i had never heard before being on this site, so it grabbed my attention right from the start, and i placed in that mental category of books that would never have been marketed to kids when i was a kid , when we had to read sanitized books while walking uphill both ways yadda yadda.and then it really gets going,and blossoms into two separate stories that eventually dovetail, but not in a way that is predictable this book kept playfully yanking the rug up from under my feet until it finally all came together this is great writing.the best thing about this book is that it feels like magical realism even though there is nothing decidedly magical about it.it just feels like there is something subterranean that wants to push through and release all this crazy stuff into the text, but it is just being carefully suppressed, like a laugh at a funeral there is a lingering presence of magical possibility that is felt but never revealed.mostly it is quietly sad it doesn t make a big tearful spectacle of itself, even though since the centerpiece of the story is the disappearance of a fifteen year old boy, it could have easily gone that route but its moments of sadness manifest themselves in small and understated scenes details really.again, it is very cleverly handled.the only thing i wasn t crazy about was his single writer s quirk to insert paragraphs beginning with when one as in when one is lying on the floor of his bedroom exactly ten weeks and three days after his brother has vanished off the face of the earth, he begins to imagine a grandiose scene which punctuate the narrative as these little distancing techniques the narrator uses to slip into a world of fantasy, often about zombies, which is fine, but the repetition of the phrase when one is got on my reading nerves a little, like a skip in a record.but overall a charming and endearing book, and i will read any book this man ever writes, hopefully as an ARC so i can get in there before anyone else.come to my blog I CAN T EVEN This book was too good.
JOHN COREY WHALEY grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he learned to be sarcastic and to tell stories He has a B.A in English from Louisiana Tech University, as well as an M.A in Secondary English Education He started writing stories about aliens and underwater civilizations when he was around ten or eleven, but now writes realistic YA fiction which sometimes includes zo
- 228 pages
- Where Things Come Back
- John Corey Whaley
- 03 July 2019 John Corey Whaley