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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Clara was raised by her young single mother Tamar. Tamar is a strong, independent and capable woman. However, when her memory starts to decline Clara has to return to the area she grew up in to take care of her mother. Being back in the rural area of the Adirondack Mountains brings back a lot of memories. Why did Tamar make sure Clara would go to a college far away from home? What was the reason behind this sudden change of plan?

While Clara is looking for answers, she discovers more about herself and the woman who raised her. There's a lot Clara didn't know, but was she ready to have that knowledge at the time? Clara is trying to make life as easy as possible for her mother. It's difficult to talk about the past when Tamar hardly remembers anything, but the bond between the women is strong. Clara has never opened her heart to anyone again after leaving home. She now has to find a way to deal with the pain from the past so she will be able to start living again. Will she be able to uncover her mother's secrets, even though Tamar can't talk about them any longer?

Never Coming Back is a beautiful story about family, love, illness and living. Clara loves her mother, but she also blames her for the worst moment of her life. Tamar has never told her daughter exactly what happened and Clara's heart has been broken ever since. She has many regrets and one of them is that she and her mother can never resolve the issues they had because of it. Clara hasn't been able to fall in love again because she doesn't have closure and understanding and my heart ached for everything she lost. Now she's about to lose her mother at a young age as well and there's so much she doesn't know yet about the woman who raised her. Fortunately she has good friends who support her and they are helping her to share special moments with Tamar and to make sense of the situation. Tamar and Clara might not be able to talk, but love is the most important way to communicate of all, which is an amazing topic for a story.

Alison McGhee writes about Alzheimer's Disease in an open and honest way that moved me to tears. The effects on Tamar's mind are devastating. Clara doesn't know how to deal with her mother's illness and the possibility of a similar future. Because of Alison McGhee's fantastic descriptions I could easily understand and feel her pain. The emotional rollercoaster she's going through is incredibly well pictured. Alison McGhee has written a fantastic multilayered story. I loved witnessing Clara's emotional journey and I was curious to find out if she'd find a way to heal and make peace with her situation. I read this book in one sitting and was genuinely impressed. Never Coming Back is a poignant, compelling story that will stay with me for a long time.


If you love stories about complex family relationships and emotional growth Never Coming Back would be a perfect choice.

About Alison McGhee

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.


Website // Blog // Facebook // Twitter // Goodreads

Was my mother scared, when I was little? Did she feel alone?
(Never Coming Back, p. 228)
Guest post by Alison McGhee

Once, when I was a little girl, maybe seven or eight, I came upon my mother crying on the phone, her body bent in a curve of grief. She didn't know I was watching her. I don't remember what she was saying to whoever was on the other end of the line. She hung up the phone –it was a black wall phone, the only phone we had, mounted to the painted-yellow wall of our kitchen—and she lowered her face into her hands and ground her head slowly back and forth.

I remember how my stomach turned to ice, how I froze, wary and watchful the way a wild animal is when cornered. It felt as if my life were in jeopardy at that moment, because if my mother –my strong, stoic, resourceful mother—could be in this much pain, then the world as I knew it could not be counted on.

"Mom? Who were you talking to?"

She startled and turned toward me. "No one."

"Yes you were. What's wrong?"

"Nothing, honey."

"Please tell me."

"It's nothing. I'm okay. I'll tell you when you're older."

I waited. Many years, I waited. And when I asked her again --because I was older now-- why she had been crying on the phone that long, long-ago day, she said, "Honey, I don't remember. I don't know what you're talking about."

I believe her. My mother has always counted herself lucky to be able to forget hard memories. But I remember. I remember watching my mother --my strong, valiant, stalwart, smiling mother-- in tears on the phone. I remember wanting her not to be sad. I remember

wanting to make her feel better. I remember how helpless I felt. Never Coming Back, my new novel, wrote itself in a compulsive rush. Questions tumbled out across the pages, fierce questions that I have spent my own life asking myself. Why do we so often hide so much from the people closest to us? Why, much of the time, do we assume that there will always be more time? Why, for so many of us, is it only at the end of life that we spill our secrets, desperately seeking to close the distance between ourselves and the people we most love?

How well can we ever really know one another?

Faulkner's famous, ferocious question was one of the guiding lights behind Never Coming Back, a book about the relationship between two people --Tamar Winter and her daughter Clara-- who, despite their profound love for each other, have never been able to talk about the secrets they hold in their hearts. But now Tamar has early-onset Alzheimer's, and time is running out. Tamar and Clara struggle and stumble toward reconciliation, resolution, and clarity. They try, and try, and try again. Like most of us.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a signed paperback copy of Never Coming Back.

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Bookclub Giveaway

If you're a member of a bookclub, you don't want to miss this amazing giveaway. Two very lucky bookclubs will win a Skype visit from Alison McGhee. You don't have to enter this giveaway as the entire club, each member can enter individually, so you can increase your chances to win.

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The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. This sounds beautifully written, raw and poignant. I can tell from the guest post how evocatively you write, Alison! My husband's grandmother had Alzheimer's and it can be such a hard thing to go through for everyone involved. But it's so true that we can show love even if memories go. :) Take care and have a wonderful 2018! xx

  2. Never Coming Back sounds like a haunting, dramatic novel that is both beautifully crafted and thought provoking.

  3. It sounds like a very emotional read.

  4. This book sound really good. Adding it to my to read list

  5. My kind of book - Thanks for the chance of winning a copy

  6. This looks and sounds like a great read. I am sure I would really enjoy reading it and I think the cover is also very inviting!!

  7. I'm pretty sure that this novel would have me in tears. Alzheimer's Disease is horrific, especially for the relatives. My mother had dementia and it was dreadful and painful when she no longer recognised me and thought my youngest daughter was a childhood friend of hers.

  8. this sounds like a fantastic read, I wish I had a book club to enter with, but I can't seem to find one in my area or set one up!!

  9. Never coming back sounds like the kind of book people definitely need to read to realize we should take the moment when we can.

  10. The cover of this book makes it look like one that I want to curl up and read!

  11. This sounds like a great book and I love the cover.

  12. love the sound of this book - great giveaway thank you

  13. I hope Tamar & Clara are able to work thru their relationship struggles.

  14. Sounds like a book with a powerful mesagae. Great review

  15. Sounds so emotional and sad. I love the cover.

  16. thank you Alison McGhee

  17. This sounds a wonderful story i cant wait to read it!

  18. Alison, this sounds like a really powerful, emotional book - Love that Suze read it in one sitting too, I love those tpe of books that you just can't put down

  19. Wow, this sounds like it's going to be an emotional journey, but love the idea of that there's a mystery to solve along the way. Will be adding to my TBR mountain as well.

  20. Since Mum had a stroke last year our relationship has completely changed. She now relies on me and my help rather than the other way round. We tell each other everything now and share our memories and the fear, the happiness of just living from day-to-day. Yes, it is a very emotional journey but no-one should have to travel that road alone.

  21. A surprising guest post for me. I think that one reason memories, fears or unhappiness aren't shared is to avoid someone else hurting too, be that a child or an adult.