Now here’s a book that I’m still thinking about over a week after reading it.
Cullen lives in Lily, Arkansas. It’s a really small town, about four thousand people. Cullen is used to the drudgery of small-town life. Then a couple of things happen that turn both Cullen’s life and the town itself upside-down. First, a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct may have been spotted in town. The Lazarus woodpecker becomes the town’s rallying point as ornithologists and tourists crowd in to see if they can spot the bird for themselves. Second, around the time that the woodpecker appears, Cullen’s younger brother, Gabriel, vanishes without a trace.
Interspersed with Cullen’s story is the seemingly unrelated (at first) story that begins with a young missionary who fails in his mission, but brings the apocryphal texts from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church to the attention of his college roommate, Cabot.
While it’s a quick read, there’s a lot going on here. So much that I’m still processing it. I loved how everything eventually fits together, even if I’m still not 100% sure what exactly happened at the end. I love that it is left to the reader to decide. So many books like to tie everything up with a tidy little bow, but this is not the case here. It may not be the book for everyone, but those willing to take a chance will find themselves rewarded.
This is also the 2012 Printz Award winner.