Today is the on-sale date for one of my favorite books so far this year: Christopher Coake’s You Came Back (Grand Central). This wrenching story of grief, love and ghosts captivated our reviewer, who said the book ”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.”
What we don’t mention in our review is that Coake’s story was inspired by personal experience with loss. Not the loss of a child, which is the tragedy that befalls his protagonist, but the loss of a wife to cancer at only 27. In a moving behind-the-book essay, he talks about the parallel lives people are forced to lead after moving on from loss.
I’m happy. Maybe I can say I wrote my novel because I falter whenever I say this sentence. Not because it’s untrue—I am married to a marvelous woman, and I have a job I love in a city and region I love. I do not want for anything. But it is with utmost respect for my wife and for my job and my place that I say this: My happiness is often upsetting to me, because of the way it came to me. Because it’s a product of my first life being destroyed, and giving way to this one. These two lives—both of which, past and present, I’d have died to protect—will always exist in me, side by side.