Never Coming Back
By: Alison McGhee
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 10/10/2017
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
When Clara Winter left her rural Adirondack Mountain town for college, she never looked back. Her mother, Tamar, a fiercely independent but loving woman who raised Clara on her own, all but pushed her out the door, forcing Clara to build a new life for herself, far from her roots, far from her high school boyfriend, far from the life she has 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 beginning to slip away, Clara’s questions are building. Why was Tamar so insistent that Clara leave home all those years ago? Just what secrets was she hiding? If Clara, too, carries inside her the gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s, what does that mean for her own future?
With great tenderness and humanity, Alison McGhee tells the story of a young woman finding her way in life, determined to know her mother—and by extension herself—before it's too late.
“[A] quietly powerful novel….Fans of Sara Baume, Holly Chamberlin, and Francesca Segal will appreciate McGhee’s magnetic prose and her ability to pack a richly detailed story into a slim novel. Atmospheric and introspective, Never ComingBack will resonate with those who have lost a parent to illness or estrangement but still have questions they’d like to be answered.”—Booklist
“A luminous novel….the author’s gift for subtly poetic language and her believable dialogue make Clara’s journey worth following. McGhee has an almost musical ability to repeat the themes of her novel with enough variation to keep them fresh. 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.” —Kirkus Reviews
“[A] poignant meditation on the relationship between a mother and daughter….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.”—Publishers Weekly
“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.”—Chris Bohjalian, bestselling author of The Sleepwalker, Midwives, and The Sandcastle Girls
“When a parent is involved, the journey of a caregiver can take the mind back through all the bumps and beauties of a complicated relationship and the heart and soul into new and challenging territory. Alison McGhee captures this--all the nuances and conflicts--in her beautifully written novel. 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.”—George Hodgman, New York Times bestselling author of Bettyville
“Alison McGhee returns to the landscape of the Adirondacks in this beautifully devastating novel about the things that remain unspoken between parent and child. Clara Winter’s need to know what lies on the other side of her mother’s Alzheimer’s-induced silence drives this book toward its ferocious conclusion. Never Coming Back is an exquisite book, brim-full with nostalgia, love, regret, humor, yearning--and unforgettable prose.”—Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members
About the Author
Alison McGhee writes novels, picture books, poems, and essays for all ages, including the forthcoming novel Never Coming Back (out in October 2017) and the #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller SOMEDAY, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.
Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages.
She lives in Minneapolis, California and Vermont. Read More