My Rating: 5/5
Source: Simon & Schuster Australia
Buy: The Book Depository
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. 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.
As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.
I picked this book up once before and just could not get into it. It is rather slow paced and in that sense I found that I had to be in the right frame of mind to read it.
When I picked it up for the second time however I was completely immersed in the story and the slow pacing of the story enabled me to savor it more.
The book follows two seemingly non-related stories that end up culminating into an unthinkable finale.
I didn't particularly like the religious aspects to it at first but when it became an integral part of the story it didn't bother me at all.
I loved the remote, seemingly peaceful setting of Lilly and the small, close community feel to the people.
One of the stories follows Cullen Witter, a teenager who dreams of leaving his boring life. His life gets worse however when his younger, much loved brother Gabriel disappears.
The other story follows Benton who is away on a missionary when he discovers an ancient Ethiopian Bible which he soon becomes obsessed with.
There is also an interesting sub-plot involving a rare bird that had been thought to be extinct and its sudden arrival in Lilly.
The town becomes obsessed with the bird and soon forgets a missing teenager.
I loved the mystery aspect of this book. My wanting to discover Gabriel's fate was my major motivation in reading this book as quickly as I did.
The more I read of this book, the more I convinced myself that Gabriel was dead. In that way I could completely understand Cullen's grief and helplessness.
I know this is a big call, but I would consider this the best book I have read so far in 2015.