Study Guide

Where Things Come Back Sadness

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I followed him into the house and Mom was already in his bedroom, already crying again as she talked to a half-asleep Aunt Julia. Soon there was one more crying voice, and Gabriel and I sat up on my bed and listened through the wall as Aunt Julia rambled on and on about wanting to die. (1.10) 

Man, Cullen was already having a hard time when he identified Oslo's body, and things only get worse when he comes home. Everyone's in a state of mourning, especially poor Aunt Julia who is now all alone in the world. 

I was sad for my aunt Julia, who could barely utter a sentence without bursting into tears. I was sad for people like Mena Prescott, who tried so hard to pretend that she wasn't affected by it. Mostly though, I was sad for my brother. He didn't act sad, but I knew him better than that. (3.61) 

Don't ever accuse Cullen Witter of being unfeeling. Even though he doesn't wear his emotions on his sleeve all the time, he definitely feels other people's pain. During Oslo's funeral, he's not even sad for himself—he's sad for all the people that he cares about. 

I'm not sure why, but I wouldn't talk to anyone but the police for that entire day. Not to my parents. Not to Lucas. I couldn't make myself speak. I wasn't crying. I was just silent, sitting there with my eyes glued to the TV screen, listening to my parents being interviewed by the two cops in the dining room. (5.91) 

Everyone processes grief and shock in different ways. For Cullen, his method of coping with the loss of the one person he loves more than anything in the world is to completely shut down. He doesn't want to interact with anyone. 

I was getting tired of my parents hugging me every night. I was getting tired of Lucas Cader sleeping on my floor. I was tired of Aunt Julia's crying every single day, whether I saw it in person or heard it through the phone. (7.6) 

Things are pretty exhausting in the Witter household right now, since everyone is wallowing in their own personal version of hell. It's not easy to be around all of that heavy sadness. 

When he called home to talk to his mother, no one answered. When he thought of how his sisters always sang "O Holy Night" on Christmas Eve, he teared up. Benton Sage no longer believe in Christmas, because he felt that God had misled him. (8.35) 

Benton has tried so hard to do the right thing, and it's just ended up in him feeling confused, alone, and utterly shunned by his family. They can't even stop and take a moment to send him love on Christmas. That's pretty messed up. 

I didn't answer her because when I tried to speak, I felt as if I'd either throw up or scream, and I didn't want to do either in front of Ada Taylor. I lowered my head down onto my knees, and as my body began to shake uncontrollably, I felt a warm arm wrap around my shoulders. Ada Taylor knelt beside me on the floor as I cried for the first time over the thought that my favorite person in the world was probably dead. (9.73) 

All that pent-up sadness, frustration, and anger has to come out somehow. Cullen's been holding it all in because he feels like he has to be strong in front of his family, but with Ada, he's able to let go and just howl. 

It was not my mother who was going crazy that summer. It was my father. After the website he'd spent a fortune to get running had failed to do anything but waste his time, he began to read book after book on missing children. (11.33) 

Cullen's dad may not be crying and moaning all the time like Aunt Julia, but he's in his own personal hell. Constantly reading books about missing and deceased kids can't be good for his state of mind. 

Since he had been gone, I had taken to wearing my brother's T-shirts almost every day. I'm not sure exactly what compelled me to do so, but then again, I'm not sure exactly what ever compelled me to do or say any of the things I did and said back then. (13.51) 

Cullen's been wearing his brother's t-shirts… not because he wants to be just like Gabriel, but because he wants to feel close to him somehow. That's the only way he can do so when Gabriel is nowhere to be seen. 

"To sit here and rot like we're some sorta animals. They all expect us to pretend that it's okay and that it's gonna be all right. When it's not. Nothin's all right anymore. I hate this house. I hate this town. I hate the damn mailman who keeps peeking through my front window!" (15.42) 

Things are so not rosy for Aunt Julia. Her husband's dead, her son's dead, and now her nephew's missing and presumed dead. Sheesh. Someone's got to cut the woman a break. 

It was the nine-week mark when my mother stopped doing things. Things like buying bread and milk. Things like showering or brushing her teeth. Things like answering the phone sitting right next to her. (17.29) 

Faking it 'til you make it doesn't exactly work when your kid goes missing without a trace. It's no wonder that Cullen's mom can't hold onto the façade of normalcy anymore; Gabriel's absence starts to weigh on her heavily. 

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