If Nogginis your first foray into the work of author John Corey Whaley, then you are in for a real treat. Because Whaley’s first novel, Where Things Come Back,is truly one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. The book has gone on to receive numerous awards and recognitions – but I remember blogging about it here long before it had even been released.
You know how there’s always that one book you read as a teen that becomes the book by which you judge all others? For me, that book was Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger — and though I have loved many, many books, there has only been a small handful of titles that made me feel the way I did reading Catcher in the Rye.
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is one of those books. It’s amazing and brilliant and beautifully written, with a story that is wholly original, with much more mature characters.
Where Things Come Back tells the story of 17-year-old Cullen Witter, as he comes of age in the midst of the mysterious disappearance of his younger brother — all the while his small, Southern town is swept up with mania over an alleged siting of a previously extinct woodpecker. Cullen’s story is juxtaposed with the seemingly unconnected tale of a young missionary and where his life goes following a trip to Africa.
Though seemingly disjointed at first, the complexities of the two interwoven tales is utter perfection. Each element of the story is stellar on its own — but it’s seeing the two halves come together, complementing and completing each other, that really makes Where Things Come Back a breathtaking piece of literature.
Where Things Come Back is a book that will keep you turning the pages and linger with you long after finishing the last page. More than anything, it will give you a renewed sense of hope even in the most unlikely of ways.
Here are some of our previous features on Where Things Come Back:
- Exclusive Q&A with Where Things Come Back Cover Artist Grady McFerrin
- Exclusive Q&A with Where Things Come Back author John Corey Whaley
- John Corey Whaley’s Official Playlist for Where Things Come Back (with commentary!)
- Where Things Come Back: John Corey Whaley’s Reading List
- Where Things Come Back: Real-Life Lazarus Animals
And here is the official synopsis for Where Things Come Back(which is now in paperback):
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.
For the comments: Have you read Where Things Come Back? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!