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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back (2011)

by John Corey Whaley

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6465914,945 (3.78)17

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This is a story about the sighting of a supposedly extinct woodpecker that reinvigorates a small town, except it’s not really. It’s more about a really decent kid Cullen Witter trying to cope with his brother vanishing one day, about his parents falling apart over the loss in different ways, about Cullen’s best friend trying to be supportive and feeling lost, too, about the girl Cullen has always had a crush on, about growing up and moving on. In other words, it’s about life, messy and frustrating and sometimes wonderful.

In addition to Cullen’s narrative, which has its own very clear voice, the book contains chapters from other characters’ points of view. Although they seem at first to be random and unconnected to the main story, they weave together rather perfectly by the end.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this quiet book, which felt so real in every way. I just wish the ending could have anchored things a little better. Instead of feeling elated by how things came together, I felt a little let down. I can’t say why exactly, since the ending fits but, yeah. ( )
  andreablythe | Jul 2, 2015 |
This book was crazy!

The summer after senior year, Cullen Witter wonders if he will make it out of Lilly Arkansas (population 3,000+), or if he will end up trapped like everyone else who tried to leave but came right back. Daydreaming,hanging out with his brother and his best friend, and fantasizing as he stares through the window of the gas station where he works at Ada, the girl whose last two boyfriends ended up dead, are what there is to do in this town. Then one night, his brother unexpectedly goes missing without a trace.His mother, father, and best friend take turns descending into grief induced psychosis and depression, meanwhile, other strange and unexplained things begin happening.

The first chapter or so doesn't have a whole lot to do with the rest of the book and if you can push through it you will find something worth reading on the other side. There is also a second parallel story line that seems completely unrelated, but which ties in near the end for the book to finally give some explanations.

This book was almost amazing. It's definitely got that thick and deceptive rambling southern style of prose that you have to read really slowly in order to not miss important information. The main character has the really active and undisciplined imagination of a writer before he has written anything, and that personality type is captured very well by the author. I guess I enjoyed the story and characters much more than the writing style, but that is only a matter of taste. I am excited to see what other books John Corey Whaley will produce as he develops as a writer. ( )
  celesteporche | Jun 21, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book in the beginning. I thought, at first, that it was very well written and thought-provoking, but as I continued reading, my praises for this book steadily declined. I began to notice that the writing style continuously flip-flopped between first and third person and it drove me crazy! There were no warnings that this transition would happen, I would just be reading in first person and then BAM! third person. So overall, I absolutely loathed the style of writing in this book.

Another downfall to this book was the ending. For those of you who have not read this book STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW. There will be SPOILERS.

So I decided to push through this book despite the grotesque style of writing and found myself liking the “idea” of the book. Just a FYI, I was reading this book on my Kindle and knew that I was about 90% done. I started wondering what could possibly happen in the next 10% of the book. And then…it happened. His brother came back! It was like a glorious appearing and I loved how it made me feel. I began to wonder what would happen next; would he explain to his brother what happened to him and how he was set free or even how he got away? I was anticipating answers to all of these questions. Then I turned the page. Acknowledgments. WHAT?! No. My heart broke. Hence the reason why this book only gets three stars from me. Great idea, poorly executed and the ending was just a huge letdown. ( )
  Wonderland_Books | May 2, 2015 |
This book is written in such a personal way, where the reader feels like he/she knows the main character. The thoughts are shared on an intimate level through its specific opinions or observations of what is going on. This results in a beautifully written book with a lot of different things to the main character needs to balance out and get through.

For example, during the narration it says, "All he knew was that he had to carry on the work that God had, in his vision, ascribed to Benton. He had to somehow change the world." This alone is a powerful vision the main character has and gives great insight on what he feels called to do. This isn't an ordinary book where events that occur happen on the surface with nothing deeper mentioned such as visions, thoughts, or callings. This transparency with the character Cullen makes me appreciate this book that much more.

A second example is when the text says, "Didn't he know that all I felt like doing was fading into the background? Leaning against a wall and disappearing into it? Lying on the couch, hoping the cushions would swallow me up?" This is how Cullen felt after his brother disappeared and his father paid him any personal interest for the first time. His father kept pushing him to research colleges and think about his future. Cullen's thoughts reveal how irritated he is with his father and how focused he is on wanting to see his brother again. It is another example of personal thoughts that create a more in depth character.

The main idea of this book is to present a young teenaged boy's journey in high school with traumatic events such as his gifted younger brother suddenly disappears. It is a journey into adulthood and how he perseveres through everything. ( )
  GinaBayne | Dec 1, 2014 |
Cullen Witter's summer before his Senior year promises to be as boring as ever in small Arkansas. He works in a convenience store, has pretty normal parents, and a younger brother, Gabriel, who's so close to him, that people think they're twins.

Everything changes when a visiting ornithologist spots the long-extinct Lazarus Woodpecker, Cullen's cousin overdoses and, worst of all, his beloved brother disappears.

Cullen's story is cross-cut with the story of Benton Sage, a troubled missionary. Although totally dissimilar, the two stories eventually come together with satisfactory twists and turns.

The voice in this book is incredible: at turns, funny, sad, insightful. It is such a beautifully-wrought look at grief (Cullen for his brother) that it made this reader cry.

Teens may have trouble bringing the two stories together (Cullen's is more compelling than Benton's) but those who persevere will be rewarded with a great Coming of Age tale. ( )
  mjspear | Sep 30, 2014 |
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For Anita Cooper, teacher and friend
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I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Seventeen-year-old Cullen's summer in Lily, Arkansas, is marked by his cousin's death by overdose, an alleged spotting of a woodpecker thought to be extinct, failed romances, and his younger brother's sudden disappearance.

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