Sean and Daisy, married for a number of years, and their son, Victor, are trying to raise Dylan after Esme left when Dylan was just four years old. The story is told in a 3rd person, sometimes shifting point-of-view. This story incorporates a lot of telling which is not a bad thing. It's just very apparent because most stories I've been reading lately do not include this much telling as opposed to showing.
The only thing that I question in this story is the introduction of the redwood trees and Esme's supposed interest in botany. I found it a weird inclusion and so near the end. Maybe I'm just missing something.
The POV never moved in, at least for long, to Daisy's mindset. So, the story was more about Sean, father of Victor and grandfather of Dylan, than it even was about Victor or Esme or Dylan.
However, the title, "Never Come Back," was uttered by Daisy to the prank phone caller who Daisy assumed was Esme. We never know for sure. It is an okay story. Certainly not one that I think is great. It seems like the author was trying a bit too hard. I'm not sure why Dent and his Asian mail order bride were included yet Victor marrying her. Distracting for me from the real story of Sean, his feelings and the misconstruing of them by Esme was the real story and where I think the emotional strength of the writing was. Tallent poked Sean so that his real thoughts were awakened and I bet she could have gone further with them as we never learned the source of Sean's ideas, thoughts, fears, and hopes.
Strangely, one of my favorite passages is about Daisy.
"The first volunteer fireman on the scene dressed the boys in slickers that reached to their ankles and bundled their naked teeth-chattering sister into an old sweater that stank of crankcase oil, and to this day when Sean changes the oil in his truck he has to scrub his hands outside or Daisy will run to the bathroom to throw up."
As I type this, I remember that Dylan threw up in the car. Poor kid.
"Never Come Back" was first published in the Threepenny Review and subsequently selected for inclusion in the PEN / O'Henry Prize Stories 2011.
Stanford, Tallent profile page
Stanford page announcing her arrival
Threepenny Review site
PEN / O'Henry Prize Story page