Monday, July 23, 2012
How much do any of us need to know about a book before we decide to make it our own? I cannot predict myself. I'll buy a book on a whim, or because I like the cover. I'll buy it because a blogger I respect suggested that maybe I should, or because it got a rave review, or because someone I know is on the fence and I want to know how I'd decide. I buy books in an instant, and I've been known to take my time. But eventually I get around to buying books.
Where Things Come Back, John Corey Whaley's book, has been on my radar screen for a very long time. It won the 2012 Printz Award and the William C. Morris YA Award. My friend Ruta Sepetys loved it, and she doesn't go wrong. Publishers Weekly, in its starred review, called it a "taut and well-constructed thriller."
I need to read more thrillers.
And so this weekend, while at the Chester County Book and Music Company with my friends Kate Walton, Amy King, and Joanne Fritz, I asked Joanne (who happens to work at CCBM) if she could locate a copy of Whaley's famous book. There are more than 28,000 square feet at CCBM, but Joanne, being a whiz, returned in a second, book in hand. Yesterday I lay on a couch and read.
Everyone knows how happy I am when authors take risk. When they write outside category, defy logic, or dare to craft something we have not quite seen before. Where Things Come Back is one of those books—nearly uncategorize-able (I'm not sure I'd call it a thriller), never super eager to broadcast its ambitions, willing to take some time and to confuse readers, even, so that it can eventually make its point and (this is important) have its fun. This is a story in which many seemingly disparate parts do ultimately make a whole. A brand of religion is involved, a probably extinct bird, a kidnapping, some insanity, best friends, young divorce, misdirected prosleytizing, and the angel Gabriel. Gabriel is also the kid brother of our narrator. Some people (in the novel) get the two confused.
I admire the time Whaley takes with this book, the no-hurry he is in to explain all these parts, or to promise us cohesion. His narrator is so likable that we're going for this ride. The story is so unusual that we stay. The suspense here—the thrill—is seeing if Whaley is actually going to pull this off.
No spoiler here: he does.
There are words today, for all of us. I quote them here. Then I encourage you to go to my friend Kate Walton's blog and read her plea for greater kindness, for less aloneness. We should all print her piece and keep it near.
... I wanted to be offered help from people because they cared about me, not because they felt some strange social obligation to do so. I wanted the world to sit back, listen up, and let me explain to it that when someone is sad and hopeless, the last thing they need to feel is that they are the only ones in the world with that feeling.