This was not an easy book, but I’m glad I read it. I don’t think I’ll be revisiting it for a while, though.
Here’s the blurb at Amazon:
Hal Wiens, a retired professor, is mourning the sudden death of his loving wife, Yo. To get through each day, he relies on the bare comfort of routine and regular phone calls to his children Dennis and Miriam, who live in distant cities with their families. One snowy April morning, while drinking coffee with his Dené friend Owl in south-side Edmonton, he sees a tall man in an orange downfill jacket walk past on the sidewalk. The jacket, the posture, the head and hair are unmistakable: it’s his beloved oldest son, Gabriel. But it can’t be – Gabriel killed himself 25 years ago.
The sighting throws Hal’s inert life into tumult. While trying to track down the man, he is irresistibly compelled to revisit the diaries, journals and pictures Gabe left behind, to unfold the mystery of his son’s death. Through Gabe’s own eyes we begin to understand the covert sensibilities that corroded the hope and light his family knew in him. As he becomes absorbed in his son’s life, lost on a tide of “relentless memory,” Hal’s grief–and guilt–is portrayed with a stunning immediacy, drawing us into a powerful emotional and spiritual journey.
Come Back is a rare and beautiful novel about the humanity of living and dying, a lyrical masterwork from one of our most treasured writers.
Three personal observations:
First, Hal Wiens actually appeared as a small boy in Rudy Wiebe’s first novel, Peace Shall Destroy Many. I believe this is the first time that Wiebe has revisited an old character in a new novel.
Second, the style is very vivid, but I wish the author wasn’t so fond of (a) long, run-on sentences, and (b) incomplete sentences.
Third, this novel is very autobiographical. The experience of a son’s suicide is something Rudy Wiebe has been through himself; I suspect this is his most personal novel to date.
Link to Come Back at Amazon, Chapters, and Penguin Random House.