by John Corey Whaley
I’m not quite sure how to describe this book; two simultaneous storylines only intersect in the last few chapters, and those were truly the only chapters I loved.
The first story follows Cullen Witter, a small-town boy ready to escape, who has one of the greatest best friends ever written, who writes lists of book titles that he will never write, and who idolizes his little brother. The story opens with him identifying the body of his cousin who died of an overdose, and very quickly his town is overrun with woodpecker hysteria, and his brother, Gabriel, suddenly goes missing.
The second begins by following a young missionary in Africa. This was the plot that unsettled me; the characters in this half of the novel grow increasingly fanatic and insane.
While all of these many plots seem completely separate and unrelated, the last couple of chapters somehow tie the entire novel together. All of my questions were answered, all of the seemingly random characters suddenly found their place, and the suspense totally had me- there were two ways it could have ended, and I had no idea which way it would go. I had a hard time getting into the book to begin with, but the last chapters were so well done that I almost want to go back and reread the entire thing to try and follow all of the threads from the beginning. The book has high praise from many people, and it was well-written and complex, but most of the book felt so disconnected that I had a hard time enjoying great portions of it.