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
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  • Published:
    Oct 2017, 256 pages

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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. 

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 ...

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Reviews

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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).

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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

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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 ...

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