Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley


I need to start out this book with an apology: I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I'm so so so sorry that I haven't finished this book until now. Because it is pure brilliance. The kind of brilliance that feels lost and forgotten. But I guess it came back (see what I did there?).

I started this book ten months ago. TEN. And I loved the first half. It was tragic and poignant and unique, narrated by a voice I wanted to never stop reading. But then I...stopped. I got distracted by other things, more fast-paced, less mind-and-heart-heavy books. Cut to yesterday, when I officially decided to pick it up again and bang it out. GREATEST DECISION OF ALL TIME. This story has a mystical, ineffable finesse. So well executed, so well written. And this book gives you a rare feeling upon finishing it: I makes you feel whole.
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and, most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

Cullen's voice is remarkable and being inside of his head was unforgettably marvelous. He has a nonstop mind; one that is constantly overanalyzing, overthinking--unable to live in the moment. Because of that, he often separates himself from the world around him; removes himself from the overwhelming emotion. But it always catches up with him, and the loss of Gabriel is relentless pain and grief. He is lost without his brother there and he is lost with him there. He's a curious man and he doesn't not know what he wants from the world.

Cabot Searcy's story was so captivating. He wanted answers so badly that he went mad. He sabotaged the good things in his life to find meaning, when the meaning could have been in front of him the whole time. I think I would read a 900 page book about him and his downfall. Yet it was less than 100 pages from his POV and that is...phenomenal. It was so complete.

The best relationship in this novel is Cullen's relationship with Lucas. Their friendship is pure. That's the best way to describe it. No matter the situation, they are there for each other and let the other be theirself. There's no expectation, just inevitability.

But in the end, this story wasn't about people's relationships with one another. It was about the characters and their relationship with the world around them. With life. Cullen is trying to survive without his brother and the confusion of growing up and Cabot Searcy is trying to find how and why he was here on this earth and why he found Benton Sage's journal. Their stories involved relationships with other people, sure, but it was about more than that. It was about the world we live in.

There is an effortless about John Corey Whaley's writing that is so beautiful. He writes long sentences and long paragraphs filled with pure voice and emotion. It's captivating to say the least. I think the plot of this novel could have choked a lot of authors, but he wrote it with heart. Not endless prose and perfectly crafted metaphors; just honest voice. I cannot wait to dive into is other novels.

You need to read this novel. It elegantly crafts two plots into one beautiful journey. Also, it has one of my favorite covers. OF ALL TIME. Yeah. I like it that much. A minimalistic beauty.

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