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You Came Back: A Novel Hardcover – June 12, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"When I finished the last page of Christopher's Coake's amazing new novel, I set the book down with a sense of wonder. There's a ghost in this story, to be sure, but this remarkable author is less concerned with the supernatural than with the all-too-too real specters that haunt us all-the ghosts of our former selves, the ghosts of the lives we might have lived had just a few things turned out differently. YOU CAME BACK will stay with me forever. What an incredible writer."―Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She's Not There and I'm Looking Through You

"Sometimes when you're reading these stories, you forget to breathe...They're beautifully written, and they have bottom, but they're never dull and they all contain striking and dramatic narrative ideas." (Praise for We're in Trouble)―Nick Hornby, author of A Long Way Down, in The Believer

"Uncanny, clear-eyed...[Coake] is wildly engaging as he explores one theme--love in the face of harrowing death (or near-death)--from seemingly every angle. A-." (Praise for We're in Trouble)―Entertainment Weekly

"In his striking debut collection, Coake considers how character is revealed under pressure...With unadorned but dramatic, economical prose, Coake explores the human capacity for altruism and cowardice in these high-stakes tales." (Praise for We're in Trouble)―Publisher's Weekly

"Gripping reading from a talented newcomer." (Praise for We're in Trouble)―Booklist

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.

BookPage (Fiction Top Pick, June 2012)

About the Author

Christopher Coake is the author of WE'RE IN TROUBLE, which was chosen for the PEN/Bingham Award of 2005. In addition, Coake was among "Granta's Best of Young American Novelists" in 2007. His stories have been published in several literary journals. A native Hoosier, he received his M.F.A. in fiction from Ohio State University. He now lives in Reno, where he teaches creative writing at the University of Nevada.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455506702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455506705
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,622,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've been looking forward to reading this novel for a while now-- "We're In Trouble" is one of the most memorable story collections I've read in a long time, and I was interested to see how Coake made the transition from short story to novel. And even though "Trouble" is a favorite of mine, after reading "You Came Back" I'm convinced that Coake is even more at home in the long form.
"You Came Back" is about a lot of things. It's a ghost story that's spooky as hell-- unfortunately, the Amazon review simplifies and gives away a bit too much in this regard-- but I'll just say that the supernatural is handled in a way that supports the larger themes of the novel while simultaneously giving the reader the creeps, which is exactly what a good ghost story should do. But this book is also a complicated, nuanced exploration of faith. More specifically, Coake is looking at faith in the past as it fights against a vision of the future.
A previous reviewer noted a frustration with the main character's (Mark Fife) indecisiveness, which i was surprised to read. I found Mark to be a well-drawn character who is regularly making huge decisions, though not always (in fact, very rarely) the right ones. And this is what I loved about this book-- my willingness to go along with Mark, and even sympathize with him, in these moments of decision. I found myself wanting Mark to follow (just as Mark wants to follow) two contradicting and mutually exclusive paths, and I (just like Mark) had no idea how to reconcile them.
Fortunately Coake does know how to reconcile them. The ending may be frustrating to some readers, but I found it to be true to the the complexity of the novel. A well-written, very enjoyable read that will leave you with a lot to think about long after you've read the last page.
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By cicadanymph on September 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So, as my title suggests, I am torn in my feelings in regards to this book. First off- it is not a thriller! The subject matter handled differently definitely could be thriller material but thats not where Coake takes it. There were some brief moments of suspense and maybe one that was ever so slightly spooky but that was not the pervading atmosphere of this book. This book doesn't provoke fear or even suspense so much as sadness. Its a novel about grief and love.

That said, I enjoyed the beginning of the book and the last quarter of the book very much. The middle was really long and a struggle to get through. I found myself so bored becauuse at one point I felt like I was rereading the same scenes over and over. The accident that kills the little boy is described multiple times. The father's guilt is rehashed over and over as were his feelings about the women in his life and his former wife's grief. There were two scenes where the father gets drunk in the house that I had to read about and the same thing bascially happens in both which made the second one boring to read. I think some of this middle could have been edited down. Yes, in real life grief and guilt can be tedious and constant but I don't think they have to be written about that way. I will concede that handling the subject matter this way did perhaps add to the gloomy sense of opression but it made the book less entertaining. I did like that it was difficult to tell in which direction the author was going to take the story and how the relationships were going to play out. I was even more interested to find out who was going to wind up with whom than I was to find out if there was a ghost or not.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You Came Back is everything you want a literary novel to be - a great premise that draws you in, fully realized characters that provide a deep insight into what it means to be human, and a writing style that gives you the feeling you're in the hands of a talent that won't let you down. Here Coake explores the ramifications of parents who suffered the loss of a child and had their marriage crumble as a result. The novel picks up seven years later when their lives have started to pick up again, and the husband, Mark Fife, has made a new love and is ready to get married again. All that gets turned upside down, though, when the owner of the house he used to live in - where his son died falling down steps - finds him to tell him that her son has heard a ghost in the house that seems to be Mark's dead son, calling for his father. The novel offers an amazingly gripping exploration of the personal havoc that news brings. Mark resists at first, trying to stay committed to his new love and trying not to be overcome once again by grief and the guilt he still carries for his imagined responsibility in his son's death. Complicating matters further is that his first wife, before grief soured their relationship, was the great love of his life.

As serious as the topic, this is not a depressing story or one overcome with explaining the mechanics of inhabitants of a ghost world. It's all about living a life when your most precious dreams and loved ones have been taken from you. There are surprises along the way, and I wouldn't say anymore to avoid giving anything away, but Mark Fife is one terrific character and I think any reader would enjoy spending 400 pages inside his minds as he struggles with these issues.
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