Cullen lives in small town Lily, Arkansas. Nothing happens in this town until the summer that John Barling claims to have seen the Lazarus Woodpecker, a bird long thought extinct. Then Cullen’s brother disappears. Suddenly, Cullen’s life of boredom and nothingness is anything but. The story is told in alternating views of Cullen’s story and that of seemingly unrelated Benton Sage and Cabot Searcy. Benton is a failed missionary who commits suicide and Cabot is is college roommate who becomes obsessed with the Ethiopian Bible’s Book of Enoch after Benton’s suicide.
This is an interesting little book. I was never really sure where the story was going. On one hand you have a fairly straight forward plot with Cullen and the loss of his brother. He is trying to deal with that loss and the craziness that has come to his town with the Lazarus bird nonsense. He deals with his family, his best friend, girls, guys at school; basically all the normal teen stuff mixed with the devastation of losing his best friend and brother. But then you had the other plotline in and you have no idea how it ties with Cullen’s story. In itself it isn’t as interesting as Cullen’s story. Benton only has a couple of chapters and Cabot quickly goes crazy and obsessive. I never really bought the whole religious conversion of Cabot. I think it would have made more sense from Benton. The transformation from college party guy to religious zealot just seemed weird to me. Which made the whole kidnapping plot a little more hard to swallow. I never really understood the point of his ramblings there. Did he believe Gabriel was the angel? Did he want to bring the knowledge of the angels back? What was his point. He just seemed to be crazy for the sake of craziness and not really have a true place in this book. It really made the reading of the book disjointed and made it seem like you were reading two different books at times.
Despite my confusion reading the book it was a good read. I did enjoy Cullen’s story. Where there a few too many asides about people turning into zombies? Maybe, but we are delving into the mind of a teen boy and that could be what he was thinking about. I think Whaley really captured small town life in Cullen’s story. I just wish the two plots were woven together better. This is definitely a book that makes you think and kind of makes you want to reread it just to see how the two plots go together once you know they do.