What to Read: Where Things Come Back – John Corey Whaley
What to Drink: Woodpecker (Peychaud bitters, vodka, ice)
Full disclosure – sometimes matching a book to a drink is a bit of a stretch. This is far more a recommendation of the book than the cocktail we’re about to, um, “enjoy,” but we’ll muster through anyway. Let’s have at it, shall we?
The weather has officially turned brutally hot and dry here – I write to you from 100 degree, dry, blustery sunny Orange County – meaning, in So Cal, anyway, it’s officially summer. Time for shorts, sunscreen, and time-honored summer coming of age stories. You know the ones – boys become men, girls become women, first kisses, first loves, first jobs. Stuff that’s overly nostalgic and sweet and sad. It’s all there in your standard summer tale.
I, personally, love a good coming of summer tale (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, anyone?). We’ve all been there right? School is out, it’s dreadfully hot, and that boy looked dreadfully good in those shorts. Despite the fact that they tend to feel a bit too touchy-feely and clichéd for my tastes, these stories just resound with memories.
Not so, with Where Things Come Back. Sure, it takes place over a summer, and it has all the right ingredients for your standard coming of age story – the bittersweet first love, the crappy convenience store job, even the state fair. But it takes you places you didn’t expect to go, where you explore the depths of loss, the enduring brightness of hope, and trials of faith. And through it all, you have the sarcastic and absurd perspective provided by Cullen Witter, writer and mental wanderer. His imagined scenarios funny and sad and endearing. And real. Cullen Witter reminds me of me.
The drink I picked to go with this book originally had to do with the book’s main metaphor – a long, lost woodpecker. However, the woodpecker cocktail tastes like something you try when you’re young and don’t know any better – trying to cut hard alcohol with things that taste fruity and nice so the sting of the vodka is buried under something sweet. To be 100 percent honest, a Woodpecker looks and tastes exactly like chilled cough syrup.
Life is like that sometimes, right? Trying to hide things that sting under something sweet. The profundity of mustering through when you’re not entirely sure how to do it, while clinging to bright, sweet hope that holds you together.