Meanwhile, the crisis of faith spawned by a young missionary’s disillusion in Africa prompts a frantic search for meaning that has far-reaching consequences. As distant as the two stories initially seem, they are woven together through masterful plotting and merge in a surprising and harrowing climax.
This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.
Why I liked it: I picked up Where Things Come Back in my quest to read more young adult literature with male protagonists. In the main storyline, I loved the relationships between Cullen and his brother Gabriel, and between the two of them and Cullen's best friend Lucas. The author's description of the small town in Alabama brought it, and all of its quirks to life. Despite the tragic events: the death of Cullen's cousin, the disappearance of his younger brother, and his family's grief in response to the two events, there was also humor throughout the novel, particularly the town's obsession to the supposed sighting of a rare bird.
The second storyline, focused on a mission trip to Africa that doesn't meet expectations, was less engaging for me; it reminded me of The Book of Mormon, but much less funny. The two plot lines eventually intersect, but the events that followed were a little too much like an episode of Criminal Minds to be convincing.
Classroom application: I would add this one to a high school library. The cover of the book may not grab your male readers, so you may want to put this one out during a "blind dating" book event.
It might be interesting for students to do some research on the stages of grief and compare that to how Cullen's family members handle the tragedy in their lives.
For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:
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