Review: Comeback Love
When I was reading some of the press material about this debut literary fiction novel from Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), I noticed this quotation from Susan Novotny of Staff Picks Press:
“If you are a boomer who fell in love in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, this book is for you.”
Well, I’m not and I didn’t – I wasn’t born until several years later – but I still feel that this book is for me. It opens with the protagonist, Gordon Meyers, looking up his former lover, Glenna. From this point on, the book hints at some big event that led the two of them to separate, despite their love for one another. But what could it be?
Peter Golden does a marvellous job of building up suspense throughout the novel, without over-playing his dramatic hand. Gordon and Glenna don’t have a perfect relationship by any means – there are rows and upheavals, misunderstandings and meddling from other parties – but the tension builds slowly and steadily as you wonder what could possibly arise that would cause decades of separation.
One of the clever aspects of Comeback Love is the way Golden keeps injecting progressively more serious events into the novel so you find yourself asking ‘Will this be what does it?’ or ‘Surely this is the one!’. In this way, despite the steady almost melodic pace of the novel, the suspense is always there to keep you turning the pages. Once you do finally realise how these two have been split and kept apart, the story takes on a very different feel – the suspense gives way to frustration, confusion and sadness. As well as the role of the characters in their own fates, an important aspect of the novel is also the role that events in American society play and how Glenna and Gordon’s responses to these events impact their lives forever. As you begin to conceive of the cost to these two people of the decisions that were made by themselves and others, the book becomes much deeper.
Comeback Love is a beautiful debut from an excellent writer. Peter Golden’s attention to detail brings the characters to life – their quirks, foibles and personalities constantly coming across through banal and seemingly unimportant gestures that Golden has taken the time to capture and which add real substance to his portrayals of Gordon and Glenna in particular. This is a moving and compelling read and a great accomplishment for any writer, let alone a first-time novelist. Technically a 4.5 but in the absence of half scores, a thoroughly well earned 4 is the final verdict!