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Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back

For Ages: 14 and up
  • reading group guide
  • 2awards
Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards, this poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption “explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life” (Kirkus Reviews).

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, he is forced to examine everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town. 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.
     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.

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Where Things Come Back

This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.

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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Where Things Come Back

by John Corey Whaley

1. The Book of Enoch, Gabriel, and the Fallen Angels are themes that tie together many of the main characters in complex ways. How do you view and interpret this element of the book as it relates to specific characters’ lives, to the meaning of religion, and to the intelligence and potential of humankind?

2. Cabot Searcy takes on a mission he believes was Benton’s idea. Why do you think Cabot becomes so obsessed with the Book of Enoch? Was he crazy? A religious zealot? Or was he simply a misguided soul looking for his own second chance?

3. Over the course of the novel, Cullen exhibits cynicism, hope, idealism, and sometimes despair. Is he acting out the stages of grief over his missing brother, or is he simply a typical, unhappy teenager trying to figure out his life? Think of the other missing brothers and sons in the novel (Oslo, Lucas's brother, Benton Sage)—what is the significance of these characters’ stories? How do they relate to the themes of desperation and second chances that are explored in the story?

4. Cullen has a very deep and loving connection with his brother, Gabriel. In what ways do Cullen and Gabriel appear to be a typical pair of teenage brothers? In what ways does their relationship strike you as unique or special?

5. Lily, Arkansas, is a town where things come back—both in a positive and nega see more

More Books from this Author

2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALISTTravis Coates has a good head…on someone else’s shoulders. A touching, hilarious, and wholly original coming-of-age story from John Corey Whaley, author of the Printz and Morris Award–winning Where Things Come Back.Listen—Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.Now he’s alive again.Simple as that.The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but Travis can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off...
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About the Author

John Corey Whaley
Photograph courtesy of the author

John Corey Whaley

John Corey Whaley grew up in Louisiana. His debut novel, Where Things Come Back, was the 2012 winner of the Michael L. Printz and the William C. Morris Awards. You can learn more about him at JohnCoreyWhaley.com and follow him on Twitter: @Corey_Whaley.

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