Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back. 1st ed.New York: Atheneum, 2011. Print.
Where Things Come Back
Written by: John Corey Whaley
Reviewed by: Nicole Christenson
Recommended Audience: Ages 14+
Cullen Witter is as normal as normal can get; his cousin is dead from drug overdose, he watches the girl of his dreams through the gas station window, the extinct Lazarus woodpecker was supposedly spotted in his small hometown and one summer afternoon, his brother vanishes without a trace.
Lily, Arkansas is the town where things come back. Cullen has seen it enough times to prove it true; people dream about the place they’ll go after they get away from the suffocating walls of the town, but they always end up coming back. But a particular victim of Lily has gotten the town into a buzz- the Lazarus woodpecker, the bird that was confirmed extinct in the 1940’s was spotted by hopeful birdwatcher, John Barling. The word hits the news and soon the town is filled with birdwatchers and tourists hoping to get a good look at the bird. Kids are getting the ‘Lazarus haircut’ and the ‘Lazarus burger’ becomes a popular lunch choice for everyone who thinks that the dull town of Lily has been given a second chance.
But while the news of the woodpecker is taking the town by storm, Cullen’s fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, disappears without a trace. Cullen is tired of people giving his family free handouts and tiptoeing around him like he’s a fragile piece of glass. He is tired of his mother crying and listening to his brother’s CD’s. But most of all, he is tired of hearing about ‘that damn woodpecker’ in the news rather than his brother.
This story also follows Cabot, a man who is abandoned by his newly-wedded wife only months after his roommate commits suicide. From bribing college peers to do his work for him and flirting with the whole girl’s dorm, his world quickly changes to revolving around getting his ex-wife to marry him again. He travels to the small town of Lily in search of his love and it causes Cullen’s and Cabot’s worlds to weave together seamlessly into an ending that you won’t see coming.
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a simple but brilliant novel about loss, hope, love, daydreams about zombies and a very special woodpecker that will leave readers knowing that things do come back, one way or another.
A Discussion With the Author: