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Fiction Family Life

Come Back

by (author) Rudy Wiebe

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2015
Family Life, Literary, Amish & Mennonite
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2015
    List Price

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From a 2-time winner of the Governor General's Literary Award, an intense novel of loss, memory and the limitless nature of family love.

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.

About the author

Rudy Wiebe was born near Fairholme, Saskatchewan in 1934. From the University of Alberta, he received a B.A. 1956 and a M.A. in Creative Writing in 1960. He studied under a Rotary International Fellowship at the University of Tuebingen in West Germany, and in 1962 he received a Bachelor of Theology degree from the Mennonite Brethren Bible College. In 1962ᆧ63 he was editor of the Mennonite Brethren Herald, a position which he resigned because of the controversy over his first novel,Peace Shall Destroy Many. From 1967 to 1992 he was Professor of Creative Writing and English at the University of Alberta. Wiebe has published twenty-five books, including nine novels and the non-fiction best-sellerStolen Life: The Journey of a Cree Woman, co-authored with Yvonne Johnson. He was awarded the Governor General’s Award for fiction forThe Temptations Of Big Bear in 1973, and again in 1994 forA Discovery Of Strangers. He is also the winner of the Lorne Pierce Gold Metal of the Royal Society of Canada for his contribution to Canadian literature ླ87). Wiebe has served as chairman of both the Writer’s Guild of Alberta and the Writers’ Union of Canada. He now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Rudy Wiebe's profile page


  • Short-listed, City of Edmonton Book Prize
  • Winner, Georges Bugnet Award for Novel

Editorial Reviews

#1 BESTSELLER (McNally Robinson)
Finalist for the Alberta Readers’ Choice Awards
Winner of the Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Winner of the Alberta Literary Awards—Georges Bugnet Award for Fiction

"Powerful, at times lyrical, Come Back gives voice to the depth of familial love and the strength of the human desire for answers in the face of inconsolable loss."
Winnipeg Free Press
"Come Back lingers in the reader's mind and heart as a powerful and deeply felt spiritual biography."
Waterloo Regional Record
"A very real portrait of a grief-stricken father trying to piece together his son from unreliable scraps of information."
—Edmonton Journal

"Come Back's tone is kind, and maintains an ethic of honesty. Even its starkest passages are underwritten with a kind of grave acceptance. . . . But Wiebe's principal achievement in Come Back is his avoidance of consolation. There is no cure for the pain of premature loss. Longing for the missing loved one will tug at the heart, call that command in perpetuity. Wiebe makes us attend to the beauty of the call."
The Globe and Mail
"Rudy Wiebe’s new novel, Come Back, succeeds in doing a rare thing—articulating grief in its full weight and depth while also buoying it with love. . . . [The narrative voice] feels, in fact, like a song, a hymn even, lyrical, gripping and heartbreaking—the kind of song that stops you on the spot and reaches into the chasm."
Alberta Views

"The writing [of Come Back] is elegiac in tone and the novel, as is to be expected from Wiebe, is stylistically experimental and challenging."
Quill & Quire

"[An] emotionally harrowing tale."
Toronto Star

"This novel is for anyone who contemplates not only how terrible things happen in this world, but why love cannot always save people. . . . Wiebe has used the eloquence of words as a response to unanswered questions of loss and tragedy."
Mennonite Life

Other titles by Rudy Wiebe