Where Things Come Back (2011), by John Corey Whaley: A response by guest reviewer, Rob Bittner

A (Hopefully) Thoughtful Response to Karyn’s Review of Where Things Come Back

Cullen Witter (whose name is in no way associated with Twilight, I can assure you all) is a likeable character, and one who is incredibly realistic, even if he does tend to overuse the term “ass-hat.” Whaley’s debut novel is beautiful, and my experience was no less enjoyable the second time around. The plot and various subplots, though perhaps random, are interwoven in a creative and mystical way. Some of the twists are not concretely connected, but the mysticism throughout the text allowed me to suspend my disbelief without any problem. Cullen’s story is the overarching narrative, interrupted with a secondary story and other mini-stories branching off here and there.

Perhaps where some people will get confused is in the subplot with Benton, Cabot, and Gabriel. Benton’s narrative begins when he is sent off to Africa on a missionary trip, but his expectations are disappointed and he is flown back home, much to the disappointment of his family, his father especially. Benton’s college roommate, Cabot, eventually finds and reads Benton’s journal detailing his experiences in Africa, his reading of The Book of Enoch, and his obsession with the fallen angels and the angel Gabriel. Once Cabot’s theological appetite is whet, he begins a journey of religious discovery that eventually leads him, through a winding road, to Lily, Arkansas, and to Cullen’s brother, Gabriel.

Unlike Karyn (though my reading is in no way more “correct”) I did not find myself at all troubled by the transference of Benton’s mission to Cabot due to the finding and reading of the journal. Karyn goes on to say that everything can be explained by rational means, but I have a hard time agreeing considering the amount of visions, dreams, and speaking woodpeckers that make appearances throughout the text. For me, the novel is a slice-of-life style of narrative; a novel that speaks to seemingly random stories and personal experiences that can be connected in when looked back on. And to answer Karyn’s question, “What was the point?” I say, why does there have to be one? Personally, I enjoy the type of ending that isn’t wrapped up in a pretty bow.

Should I mention that I double-checked my answer with the author to make sure I got it right? No? Okay, then, I most definitely did not.

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