Tatiana's Reviews > Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
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Apr 05, 11

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bookshelves: ya, 2011, ala-ya-2012, printz
Read from March 31 to April 02, 2011

3.5 stars.

Where Things Come Back is a pretty good debut effort (and not so good choice of cover). A little hard to describe though.

17-year old Cullen Witter is passing his time in a tiny Arkansas town. There is nothing interesting or exciting going on. Cullen is simply waiting for his final high school year to be over and to move on to a life less dull. Everything changes when Cullen's younger brother Gabriel suddenly disappears. If Cullen thought his life was bad before, it becomes unbearable now.

On the other side of the world, in Ethiopia, 18-year old Benton Sage works as a missionary. Soon, however, he abandons his work in search of an occupation that could utilize his skills and his calling better.

The best part of Where Things Come Back (besides the fact that it is compulsively readable and hard to put down) is how these two seemingly unrelated story lines come together through years and continents.

What is not so great about this book is that I think it lacks focus. Cullen's part of the story is primarily a study of grief. It follows Cullen and his friends and relatives and shows how they deal with the disappearance of Gabriel. It is a fragmented narrative where characters appear and disappear and go through hard times emotionally. Their episodic appearances are mostly with no beginnings or endings. I suppose it is reflective of real life and maybe this randomness of life is the main point of the whole novel, but in my fiction I expect and like a better defined, tighter story.

Benton's part is even less solid. He is just a link in a chain of events that eventually connect the two story lines.

In the end, I can't help but compare Where Things Come Back to similarly themed Once Was Lost. Zarr's book is definitely a more rounded, better shaped work.

Whaley's book, on the other hand, is more amorphous and muddy in what it tries to say, but not without its kernels of wisdom. I particularly liked this one: ...Life has no one meaning, it only has whatever meaning each of us puts on our own life.
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Reading Progress

03/31/2011 page 7
3.0%
04/02/2011 page 162
71.0% 1 comment
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Good review, T. It sounds like a fairly interesting read. You're right about the cover- ick :P


Tatiana I think such cover could interest a 5-year old, not a teen. But the book itself is petty good.


message 3: by Cory (new)

Cory Horrible cover. I swear I thought it was a kids book.


message 4: by Milly (new)

Milly Great and informative review! I prefer mine more focused as well.


message 5: by Ellie (new)

Ellie Very well-written review! Thanks. Terrific information-I also like my narratives focused & tightly written (or a completely different kind of narrative altogether, but not an accidental mix)
And the cover is truly bad.


message 6: by Hamda (new)

Hamda Almuhairi The cover gave me this "Don't read me cuz I suck" feeling.

Cool review.


April I feel like this book would have been so much better without the Benton storyline.


Tatiana April wrote: "I feel like this book would have been so much better without the Benton storyline."

Maybe. It was a little messy, so this adjustment might have worked.


Emily May Uh oh. I only just saw your comparison between this and Once Was Lost - which I just finished - guess I should have waited a while before starting it :/


Tatiana Emily wrote: "Uh oh. I only just saw your comparison between this and Once Was Lost - which I just finished - guess I should have waited a while before starting it :/"

A kidnapped child in both, I remember. Well, I hope you will enjoy it anyway.


message 11: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline I want to read this. Funny how personal preference is, because I LOVE the cover! It's unique.


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