Reviews for You Came Back : A Novel


Booklist Reviews 2012 May #2
Seven years after the death of his young son, Brendan, in a freak accident, Mark Fife has finally made a new life for himself. Although Chloe, the love of his life, divorced him not long after they lost their son, Mark is in a new relationship and is finding great career success. Then he is accosted by the woman who lives in his old house; she tells him a shocking story. She claims her son has seen Brendan's ghost and that he is crying out for his father. As soon as Chloe hears about the incident, she is back in Mark's life, insisting that they contact a medium. And in what seems like an instant, Mark is back in the grip of grief, mourning his son all over again. He sees that it is within his grasp to reclaim a portion of his old life if he'll agree to accept, as Chloe does, that their son's spirit is real. In a gripping and sorrowful narrative, Coake explores the toll of grief, the value of loyalty, and the nature of belief. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2012 June
Grief, love and ghosts

Ghost stories, more than most other tales, are at heart love stories. At their core is the fact that someone, on this side or the other, just flat out refuses to let go.

In You Came Back, the compelling debut novel by award-winning writer Christopher Coake, there is no shortage of love. There is the love Mark Fife has for his fiancée, Allison. There is his stubborn, somewhat obsessive love for his ex-wife, Chloe, the college sweetheart who left him. And there is the mountain of love he and Chloe both shoulder for their young son, Brendan, whose death in terrifyingly mundane circumstances will send chills down the spine of every parent.

It is seven years after Brendan’s death. Mark is 38, no longer drinks and is on the verge of conquering his misgivings and proposing to Allison. Despite occasional nightmares and the feelings for Chloe he sometimes has to push away, he is sure that he will be happy again.

Then he is paid a visit by the woman who lives in the house where he, Chloe and Brendan lived together, and where Brendan died. She tells him that her fourth-grade son has seen Brendan’s ghost, and that the ghost has been calling for his daddy. Mark initially wants nothing to do with the woman. But as the boy’s story evolves into something more believable, both he and Chloe are drawn in, and toward each other. For Mark, it is heartbreakingly tantalizing: Can he get it back? Have Chloe, the love of his life, and Brendan, whose death he still feels responsible for?

Coake, named by Granta in 2007 as one of the 20 best young American novelists, received the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers for his collection of short stories, We’re in Trouble. His first novel is a wrenching journey through the human heart. You Came Back isn’t a book to start the night before a workday. It reads like a suspense novel and will keep you turning pages longer than is good for you. Afterward, it will leave you lying in bed in the dark, contemplating its surfeit of pain and beauty.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 June #2
A man grows increasingly convinced the ghost of his son haunts his previous home in this fast-paced suburban gothic tale. The debut novel by PEN/Bingham Award winner Coake (Creative Writing/U. of Nevada; stories: We're in Trouble, 2005) opens with its hero, Mark, increasingly harassed by Connie, who owns the house where his son, Brendan, died years before in a fall that snapped his neck. Mark is eager to move on with his life, preparing to marry his fiancee, Allison, and cutting the cord with Brendan's mother, Chloe. But Connie insists Brendan is "present" in the home, and Chloe is so bereaved she's inclined to investigate. The plot hinges on making even the slightest possibility of a haunting seem credible, and Coake stretches out the story to sell that point, shuttling Mark between skepticism and belief. That makes for some wheel-spinning pages, and as a ghost story the novel feels restrained and low on chills. But Coake is expert at defining character: As Mark does all that waffling (and revisits his old drinking habit), he opens up to himself about the feelings of guilt and loss that have tormented him since Brendan died. And though the story is dialogue-heavy and engineered as a page-turner, Coake never lets the story move so fast that he can't deliver an elegant, forceful observation about the ways couples (and exes) parry with each other as they struggle to get along. Our pasts have ways of worming into us if we fail to confront them, Coake argues--if ghosts aren't actually real, they have a metaphorical power that makes them effectively real. The ghost question is definitively settled in the closing pages, but it's the relationships between Mark and the two understandably frustrated women in his life that linger. An overlong but potent story, balancing supernatural gloom and marital conflict. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 June #1

A study of the mental gymnastics of grief, Coake's first novel is a vivid conception of a parent's worst nightmare, with a twist. Seven years ago, Mark lost his seven-year-old son to an accident; he has since divorced his wife, Chloe, and has a new fiance. His tenuous equilibrium is shattered by a report from the current owners of Mark and Chloe's old home, where their son died: it's haunted by their son's ghost. While Chloe reacts positively, Mark becomes angry and starts drinking again, and the resultant confusion is further complicated by the introduction of a spirit medium. Mark barely escapes the turmoil with his life. VERDICT A captivating page-turner that examines the mechanics of loss and the seductions of belief, this novel, with its combination of tragedy and hope, has an irresistible appeal, offering quite a ride while still delivering a cold dose of reality. Readers will be left wondering what they would do in Mark's place. Good for all who enjoy fiction about family relationships. [See Prepub Alert, 12/19/11.]--Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos Lib., CA

[Page 89]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 May #2

In his suspenseful but unremarkable debut novel (after the story collection We're In Trouble Now), Coake explores how a tragic past can threaten a happy future. Years after the accidental death of his seven-year-old son, Brendan, and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage, Mark Fife is finally ready to move on with his life. On a snowy morning, he even considers proposing to his girlfriend, Allison, but he gets spooked by a middle-aged woman who seems to be following him. That woman, Connie Pelham, bought his old house, and her son says he can't sleep because Brendan's ghost is calling out for his dad. Mark doesn't believe in ghosts but the idea of his dead son needing help unnerves him. He struggles to find a way to tell his ex-wife Chloe about Connie's claims, while grappling with his own grief, regret, and frustration. Meanwhile Chloe's maternal love and internal conflicts form a maelstrom that tempts Mark to abandon his and Allison's dreams of a shared future. Allison has a powerful secret of her own, but as Chloe and Brendan draw Mark back into the past he becomes deaf to the pleas of those who need him most in the present. In competent prose, Coake teases out the ways that people can be faithful--not only to spouses, but to the past, the future, and themselves. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

In his suspenseful but unremarkable debut novel (after the story collection We're In Trouble Now), Coake explores how a tragic past can threaten a happy future. Years after the accidental death of his seven-year-old son, Brendan, and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage, Mark Fife is finally ready to move on with his life. On a snowy morning, he even considers proposing to his girlfriend, Allison, but he gets spooked by a middle-aged woman who seems to be following him. That woman, Connie Pelham, bought his old house, and her son says he can't sleep because Brendan's ghost is calling out for his dad. Mark doesn't believe in ghosts but the idea of his dead son needing help unnerves him. He struggles to find a way to tell his ex-wife Chloe about Connie's claims, while grappling with his own grief, regret, and frustration. Meanwhile Chloe's maternal love and internal conflicts form a maelstrom that tempts Mark to abandon his and Allison's dreams of a shared future. Allison has a powerful secret of her own, but as Chloe and Brendan draw Mark back into the past he becomes deaf to the pleas of those who need him most in the present. In competent prose, Coake teases out the ways that people can be faithful--not only to spouses, but to the past, the future, and themselves. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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