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Excerpt from Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Never Coming Back

by Alison McGhee

Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee X
Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages

    Oct 2018, 256 pages


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"Nice to see you too, Clara," was what she said, after a minute or so. She stood aside so that I could come in, but I didn't move. From what I could see and smell there was nothing baking in her kitchen, nothing bubbling on the stove under a pot lid. "How can I help you?"

I said nothing. I stood there and kept holding the photo. If my instinct was right, then Annabelle would crumple before my silence and tell me what she knew about this unfamiliar Tamar Winter dancing in the air before her. She would tell me about the look on my mother's face. She would tell me who had taken the photo.

I stood silently, and so did Annabelle. She tilted her head as if she were trying to figure out why I was holding the photo before her like a piece of evidence. She frowned. She looked at me, except not really, because her eyes didn't meet mine. And when someone's eyes won't meet yours, even though you can tell they're trying to make their eyes meet yours, when their face turns even a fraction of an inch away from yours, when you can feel the unease flowing through their body even though they are forcing themselves to stand elaborately, casually still, that's your answer.

Cultivate silence. Silence, and patience, and determination.

Now that I had my answer?

she knew who had taken that photo?

I stepped inside. The trailer felt warm. Not thermostat warm, not oil or gas or baseboard or electric-space-heater warm but warm by nature, as if Annabelle herself, the great furnace of her body and her heart, were all that was necessary. I pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and sat down. Annabelle stood across the table from me. She was trying to intimidate me by not sitting down, not joining me, as if that would make me stop whatever it was I was doing. Too late, Annabelle. You've already given yourself away and there's no going back.

I laid the photo in the precise middle of the table. "Who took this?"

"No clue." She was trying not to look at the photo but her eyes kept dragging back to it, as though there were something fascinating about it.

"Where was it taken?"

"No idea."

"When was it taken?"

"You got me."

The kitchen was the detaining room and Annabelle was the suspect, trying her best not to cave until the public defender arrived.

"Annabelle, tell me what you know."

She shrugged. "It's a nice photo of your mother. Something else to add to the pile."

"The pile? The pile of what?"

"Things you have of her. Memorabilia."

"She's still around, Annabelle. She's not dead."

"You know what I mean."

The sentences sounded like Annabelle sentences but the Annabelle-ness of her voice was gone. She sounded quiet. She sounded tired. The photo lay on the table between us, a jigsaw piece missing its puzzle.

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Excerpted from Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee. Copyright © 2017 by Alison McGhee. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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