Summary and book reviews of Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee

Never Coming Back

by Alison McGhee

Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee X
Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 9, 2018, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

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. 

Excerpt
Pages 189-192

It was not possible.

That was my first thought. Because had she ever been on a date? Had she ever kissed anyone? Had she ever asked someone to a Sadie Hawkins dance, or been to a prom? Had she ever gone to a bar with someone and put quarters in a jukebox and played pool and ordered a second cocktail because she was having fun? Had she ever sat across from a man who had put on a clean shirt for the occasion, at a small table with a tablecloth and a candle and not one but two menus, one for wine and one for food? Questions shoved up against each other in my head.

No and no and no and no and no.

The interviewer, her legs crossed, her fingers hovering over her keyboard?

"Miss Winter, to your knowledge, did your mother, Tamar Winter, ever go on a date?" No, before the quotation mark was fully slotted next to the question mark. "Did your mother, Tamar Winter, ever go on a date? No." A broken sentence. Part question but mostly No.

Why so quick with the No, though, Miss ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This was the best book that I have read this year. I had tears streaming down my face more than once. Alison McGhee just "gets" the whole mother/daughter dynamic and has been able to put it down on paper without being overly cynical or overly sweet.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (865 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.

Booklist
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.

Kirkus Reviews
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.

Author Blurb Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Sleepwalker, Midwives, and The Sandcastle Girls
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.

Author Blurb George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
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.

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

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

A Snapshot of the Adirondacks

Alison McGhee tells her story in Never Coming Back against the backdrop of the wildly varied ecosystems of New York State's Adirondack Region, located in the most northern part of the state close to the borders of Canada and Vermont.

Adirondacks camping The Adirondacks cover an area of more than six million acres - a roughly circular area about 160 miles in diameter. It is the largest protected natural area in the lower 48 States.

Adirondacks canoesIn the Mohawk language, Adirondack means porcupine. The area contains over 100 mountains and about 3000 lakes and ponds. It has been settled for at least 12,000 years and, today, boasts more than 2000 miles of hiking trails.

Biking, hiking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking are some of the many outdoors activities that draw people ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Alison McGhee

If you liked Never Coming Back, try these:

  • Everybody's Fool jacket

    Everybody's Fool

    by Richard Russo

    Published 2017

    About this book

    More books by this author

    Richard Russo, at the very top of his game, now returns to North Bath, in upstate New York, and the characters who made Nobody's Fool (1993) a "confident, assured novel [that] sweeps the reader up," according to the San Francisco Chronicle back then. "Simple as family love, yet nearly as complicated." Or, as The Boston Globe put it, "a big, ...

  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry jacket

    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    by Gabrielle Zevin

    Published 2014

    About this book

    More books by this author

    As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: American Prison
    American Prison
    by Shane Bauer
    After spending over two years in Iran's notorious Evin Prison for supposedly crossing the country's ...
  • Book Jacket: Small Fry
    Small Fry
    by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
    Small Fry is the debut memoir from Lisa Brennan-Jobs, long-time journalist and writer, and oldest ...
  • Book Jacket: The Winter Soldier
    The Winter Soldier
    by Daniel Mason
    Imagine the thousands of confounding cases doctors face routinely for which diagnoses are hard to ...
  • Book Jacket: Brother
    Brother
    by David Chariandy
    Brother is the brief, moving account of how a single, tragic moment in time can alter the course of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Removes by Tatjana Soli

A powerful, transporting novel about the addictive intensity and freedom of the American frontier.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    French Exit
    by Patrick deWitt

    A brilliant and darkly comic novel from bestselling author Patrick deWitt.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House. On sale Oct 9.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Turn T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.