Saturday, March 31, 2012
Rachel Rambles About Where Things Come Back
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.
This book was a beautiful, wonderful, unexpected gift from the Book Gods. When I bought the book, I knew that it was supposed to be really good (double award winning good!) and it was about a bird or something. I wasn't really sure what it was about beyond that, and if I wasn't sure if I would even like it.
Once I was just a few pages into it, I knew that I was reading something special. Cullen, the main character, is a normal teenager in a normal, albeit small, town. Nothing exciting really happens to him until his brother suddenly disappears. Cullen is left with a lot of questions and no answers, while the rest of the town obsesses over a rare bird that may or may not exist.
But the entire book is not about Cullen. The chapters alternate from Cullen's point of view to the stories of some other characters. At first, it seems that these are just random characters that have nothing to do with Cullen, but eventually everyone's paths intertwine and tangle together and start to explain a lot of things about the book. This book shows how different actions of different people can go on to affect others in a lot of ways.
Cullen is smart, thoughtful, and funny. I really connected with him as a main character. Cullen's friends and family were all extremely realistic and easy to identify with. The characters in the other half the book are all interesting to read about, and it was fascinating to see how their stories fit in with the rest of the book. I feel like I was able to really connect with all the characters, and the stories of their lives will stay with me.
This book is funny and mysterious and surprising and depressing and absolutely amazing. On the surface, Where Things Come Back is about an ordinary, even slightly boring, situation, but John Corey Whaley manages to take that simple story and transform it into something extraordinary. I would recommend this book to pretty much everyone, especially fans of John Green.