Study Guide

Where Things Come Back Setting

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Lily, Arkansas

Right away, our narrator—a.k.a. Cullen Witter—introduces us to the small town of Lily, Arkansas. Even though it's the place where Cullen was born and raised, he doesn't have very romantic notions about it. In fact, he describes it in downright depressing terms:

If you've never been to Lily, and I bet you haven't, then you need to know that it is located almost exactly halfway between Little Rock and Memphis. There are 3,947 people, according to the faded green sign on the side of the road as you drive into town, and most of these people are complete ass-hats who tried and subsequently failed to leave this place behind. One unique thing about Lily is that, for a small town in the middle of nowhere, it seems to be a very clean and well-kept sort of place. Lily is the kind of place you'd like to move to some short time before you die. If at any other time in your life you think you need the peace and quiet of Lily, Arkansas, then you should either see a therapist or stay there for a week and try to find anything half-entertaining to do. (1.22)

Yes, Lily is a "small town in the middle of nowhere," and consequently, the teenagers who are at the center of Where Things Come Back are itching to get away. The isolated quality of Lily also makes it a perfect setting for a storm of small town, personal dramas… which is exactly what happens when an extinct woodpecker is supposedly sighted, and Gabriel Witter disappears without a trace. 

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