If extinct woodpeckers can come back, can people, too?
In Lily, Ark., “the land that time forgot,” cynical 17-year-old Cullen Witter, who likes to jot down titles for books he intends to write and pines for Ada Taylor (Lily’s “black widow” because all of her boyfriends have died in accidents), narrates his unforgettable summer after senior year. Following the overdose death of his cousin, some “ass-hat” ornithologist claims that the Lazarus woodpecker (based on the Lord God Bird) has resurfaced after 60 years of extinction. It’s hard for Cullen to enjoy the frenzy and hope it brings his small town when the woodpecker receives more media coverage than his younger brother, Gabriel, who has inexplicably disappeared. Alternating chapters with Cullen’s account is a third-person narration about Benton Sage, an 18-year-old missionary to Ethiopia. He discovers the Book of Enoch, an ancient text not included in the traditional Bible, which describes Archangel Gabriel’s role of ridding Earth of fallen angels. Benton’s secret journal about Enoch falls into the possession of his college-freshman roommate, Cabot Searcy, whose curiosity turns into an obsession. In a build-up that explores the process of grief, second chances and even the meaning of life, Cullen’s and Cabot’s worlds slowly intersect and solve the mystery of Gabriel’s disappearance in this multilayered debut for sophisticated readers.
Unexpected, thought-provoking storytelling. (Fiction. 14 & up)