Posted by Lisa Schroeder on Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.
Have you seen the fabulous trailer?
I finished this book over the weekend and it is amazing. It's thought-provoking. It made me laugh in places and made me tear up in places. It's one of those books where you aren't sure where it's going, but you read along and trust that the stories are going to take you where you need to go. And that was certainly the case. The end was nothing like I expected.
It's a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Fiction Selection this year. It's the first time a YA author has been chosen for this prestigious honor!
Check out what some of the review journals have to say:
"In this darkly humorous debut, Whaley weaves two stories into a taut and well-constructed thriller..." ~Publisher's Weekly, STARRED review
"Unexpected, thought-provoking storytelling." ~Kirkus
"An intriguing, memorable offering teens will want to discuss." ~Booklist