Never Coming Back: Book summary and reviews of Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee

Never Coming Back

by Alison McGhee

Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2017
    256 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Never Coming Back is a brilliant and piercing story of a young woman finding her way in life, determined to know her mother - and by extension herself - before it's too late.

When Clara Winter left her rural Adirondacks town for college, she never looked back. Her mother, Tamar, a loving but fiercely independent woman who raised Clara on her own, all but pushed her out the door, and so Clara built a new life for herself, far from her roots and the world she had always known.

Now more than a decade has passed, and Clara, a successful writer, has been summoned home. Tamar has become increasingly forgetful, and can no longer live on her own. But just as her mother's memory is declining, Clara's questions are building. Why was Tamar so insistent that Clara leave, all those years ago? Just what secrets was she hiding?

The surprising answers Clara uncovers are rooted in her mother's love for her, and the sacrifices Tamar made to protect her. And in being released from her past - though now surrounded by friends from it - Clara can finally look forward to the future. 

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"...the author's gift for subtly poetic language and her believable dialogue make Clara's journey worth following. McGhee has an almost musical ability to repeat the themes of her novel with enough variation to keep them fresh. Fierce, complicated characters appear to grow out of the severe Adirondack landscape, and McGhee swerves away from sentimentality in addressing the relentlessly changing relationship at the novel's core." - Kirkus

"Though this well-written story will appeal to a broad range of readers for its rich characterization, mothers and daughters will especially find Clara's and Tamar's story moving and memorable." - Publishers Weekly

"Atmospheric and introspective, Never Coming Back will resonate with those who have lost a parent to illness or estrangement but still have questions they'd like to be answered." - Booklist

"Never Coming Back is a deeply moving exploration of growing up and growing old, and the ties that bind parents and children – and the mysteries that sometimes keep us apart." - Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Sleepwalker, Midwives, and The Sandcastle Girls 

"Much to praise here but it is the remarkable characterization of the mother, the indomitable Tamar, who McGhee paints with such feeling, that lingers for me. A wise, humane book and a very special novelist." - George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville

"Never Coming Back is an exquisite book, brim-full with nostalgia, love, regret, humor, yearning - and unforgettable prose." - Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members

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Reader Reviews

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Kim (Hannibal, MO)

Such a good book!
Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee is well-written and relevant, with memorable characters and an interesting style.

The ever-increasing incidence of Alzheimer's in our world has affected not only the victims of its wrath, but also their caregivers. McGhee shares the story of Clara and her mother Tamar, two unforgettable characters who will sneak into the reader's thoughts long after the book is finished.

Of particular interest is the "Jeopardy" motif that appears frequently and quietly holds the narrative together. I also enjoyed the references to language and "bon mots" that are sprinkled throughout! . (And, yes, I frequently "uppercase" my thoughts/unspoken words!)

This book is a gem!

Debbie M. (Grand Junction, CO)

Never Coming Back
Alison McGhee is a talented story teller. She understands dementia and the effect it has not only the person who has it, but on their family and friends.I think we all reach a point where we want to understand ourselves and to do this we rely on those around us to fill in the gaps. When a parent starts losing their memories, it leaves holes we can't fill. We have to adjust our perception of who we are. Never Coming Back takes us on that journey.

Kristen H. (Hagerstown, MD)

Too Close to Home
Wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings of this book. I didn't realize how much this book would actually hit home for me. I have a mother who is diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer's. At first I had no problems reading the book but as it went on, it became more apparent that it was too close for comfort. I had a great deal of difficulty finishing the book but I made my way through it. I have actually lived through it twice - once with my paternal grandmother and now my mother. I don't think I quite understood what was happening with my grandmother while it was happening but it is all too clear and real with my mother. The author did a superb job in writing this story and I was glad that I did not give up on it. Very well written.

Priscilla M. (Houston, TX)

A straight to the heart read...
Words loom large in this story, words in books, song lyrics, and in recalled conversations, yet the author writes sparingly, drawing the plot out slowly, adding layer after layer. The story is both simple and complicated because that's how real life is. Clara Winter has come home to upstate NY to care for her mother, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Clara's relationship with her mother has always been complicated, and now she realizes she is losing someone she never really knew and the time for answers is almost gone because of her mother's illness. In addition, Clara needs answers to questions about her own life and loves, and the year she spends at her cabin by herself is the beginning of a long journey inside her own heart and head, searching for answers. The story is beautifully, powerfully written, the characters are well drawn, and I closed the book with a sigh and more than a few tears. I will be recommending this book to all my friends.

Colleen L. (Casco, ME)

A Fascinating Read
Never Coming Back is an emotional story of Clara Winter who comes back to her home town to take care of her mother who has advanced Alzheimer's. Clara's relationship with her mother, Tamar, has been distant over the years. As Clara handles her mother's affairs and spends time with Tamar, she attempts to get answers to many questions she has had.

I love the way Alison McGhee writes. I have a hard time describing this book and how it makes me feel. It is a not a 'feel good' novel but is written with such clarity, that it leaves you thinking about it many days after reading it. I lost my mother when I was young and some of the passages that McGhee wrote hit close to home. I suspect that older woman who read this novel will find some emotions that remind them of their own relationships with their mothers. It is a complicated novel and really makes you think seriously about relationships with your mothers. It also makes you think about Alzheimer's and all the horrors that disease brings.

Some novels make you laugh. Some novels make you think.... but the best novels make you 'feel' empathy for the character and touch your own emotional psyche. This book does it. It moved me and I guess that's the best compliment I can give a book.

Erika I. (Northville, MI)

Good Read!
Well written book that bounces back and forth in time. Explores how we become the people we are, and how experiences influence us. Also, it's interesting to see how the daughter's view of her mother changes as the daughter reflects on her mother's interactions with her self, her friends, and the daughter's friends. Woven throughout the story is the question of genetic testing, and the ramifications of knowing the answers these tests can provide. There's a lot here that is book club worthy!

...14 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Alison McGhee Author Biography

Alison McGhee writes for all ages in all forms, from novels to poems to books for children. Her bestselling novel Shadow Baby was a Today Show Book Club pick, and her picture book for adults, Someday, was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages, and she has won many fellowships and awards, including four Minnesota Book Awards, the Geisel medal, a MacDowell residency, and several American Library Association awards.

Alison has three grown children and lives a semi-nomadic life in Minneapolis, Vermont and California.

Link to Alison McGhee's Website

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First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Never Coming Back
    by Alison McGhee

    A moving exploration of growing up and growing old, and the ties that bind parents and children.
    Reader Reviews

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