Once again my dear friend Kara recommended a book to me and I am glad she did. I probably wouldn't have read Where Things Come Back right away. There are a lot of books I want to read now and a lot of books I have to read and so it would have been a while probably. Kara said that I needed to read it because she had to talk about it with someone and I can't wait to see her tonight to do just that. Where Things Come Back is an award-winning YA book by first time author John Corey Whaley. WTCB reminded me a great deal of The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs with its very original storyline, dark humor and depiction of small-town life. When you compare any book to a Gantos book, the "any book" is going to fall short, but that's not really taking much, or anything, away from the "any book." Gantos is like Judy. One of a kind.
WTCB is full of surprises, but I was mad at myself because I figured out the surprise by the second chapter, I think it was. This is the woman who can't solve a Nancy Drew or a Three Investigators or Stuart Woods book. Trust me, the surprise is NOT easy to figure out, I just have no idea how I stumbled on it, it was totally dumb luck but once I saw the ending coming, I think I lost part of the experience of the book. Still it was an incredible, thoughtful book, even if you do figure it out after the second chapter.
Half of the book is told from the POV of Cullen a neat, cynical kid, in his summer before his senior year of high school. He has a fifteen year old brother, Gabriel, who looks a lot like him, but is a lot different. He's kind of a magical kid. The kind of kid who sees the best in everything and everyone. Cullen and Gabe have a great relationship, as do all of the members of the Witter family, which is a neat change for a YA book.
Part of the story is set in the town of Lily, Arkansas, which is fake, I think. But it could be any small town that people are dying to get out of. It had that same Norvelt-kinda feel. That's where Cullen and Gabe live. And that's the town from which Gabe disappears one day. Vanishes into thin air.
The other part of the story, which is told in the alternating chapters takes place in Savannah and Ethiopia. Ben believes he is called to be a preacher, spread the word of God, but when he is sent on his first mission trip to Ethiopia, with a veteran missionary named Rameel. Ben discovers that what Rameel does is bring food, water, crop-planting help and medical care to the poor. Ben thinks that this isn't the way to serve God. He wants to go some place where he can preach God's word and save sinners. He quits the ministry and becomes obsessed with the Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish text that is only included in the canon of a couple of churches.
I'm not going to say anymore about the plot and if after you read that, you are thinking...what the heck??? I'll also add that the book is about a thought-to-be extinct woodpecker, the Lazarus Woodpecker, possibly being spotting in Lily. The only other thing I'll add is that you have to read the book to appreciate how it all comes together and you won't be disappointed.
WTCB impressed me for a lot of reasons. I loved, loved, loved Rameel's definition of and way of serving God. I don't know if Whaley is a Christian, but he certainly has got it right, either way, because Rameel is just amazing and Whaley's description of his work, and Rameel's words to Ben are so beautiful and so spot-on, I would encourage pastors to read this book as well.
I also loved the characters. This is a short book but man....Whaley knows how to put a lot into a little bit of space.
Excellent. Excellent book.