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Come Back, Como Paperback – 4 Feb 2010
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"A delightful story about the joys and deeper meanings dogs bring into our lives." – Amy Tan
"Even people who don't much care for dogs, and I am one, will be moved and entertained by Steven Winn's story of pursuit and rejection and renewed pursuit between man and pooch. Its real subject, transcending species, is the struggle for understanding between minds and hearts." – Adam Gopnik
About the Author
Award-winning journalist and fiction writer Steven Winn was a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle for twenty-eight years. He was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford University and a founding staff member of the Seattle Weekly. His work has appeared in publications from Good Housekeeping, Parenting, and Parents, to Sports Illustrated, AARP magazine, the Utne Reader, and the National Lampoon.
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Come Back, Como comes to an end as seismic events are shaking Steven's world and family: his wife is unexpectedly hospitalized; his daughter is nearing graduation from high school, and contemplating a college on the other end of the continent; he is in transition from a full-time writer for the San Francisco Chronicle to a "free" agent and author (imagine the rumbling anxieties, merely hinted here, that come from leaving behind the 20-year security of a salaried job for the unknowns of the writer's marketplace).
As the ground beneath Steven's feet shifts, throws him off balance, his writing intensifies, causes the reader to sit at attention, hang on last words. Take this passage, for instance, when a walk on a bluff above the San Francisco bay with his high maintenance mutt Como triggers distant memories of his emotionally distant father's half-buried emotional life:
"Austere and all but mute about his own feelings, my father kept duty and principle at the foreground of his life. He was a small-town Missouri boy who had worked extremely hard to achieve what he did in academic and banking, and he took a steady, grindstone approach to everything from his job to yard work to his expectations of others. Even on the tennis court he exuded a determined and largely joyless demeanor, thwacking the ball and frowning as he labored back into position for a return shot. I'm sure he loved my mother, who had a series of trying medical crises in their marriage, and my sister and me. But sometimes, especially when I was growing up in the cone of paternal silence, that wasn't always obvious.
Grengy, our family dog, unlocked my father. From the moment that temperamental animal came into the house, Dad was lavish, almost foolishly forthcoming with his affection, babbling baby talk, protectiveness, and pride. Nothing was too good for Gengy--lean ham from the table; a shiny patent leather Christmas collar; the prime riding spot, right behind my father's neck, on the front seat of the car. It was baffling and even a little hurtful. My sister, Judy and I used to ask each other, in all seriousness, if we thought our father cared about Gengy more than us. But in later years, long after Gengy and then our father were gone, we've taken to marveling at how dogs and young children were the keys that flung open a door that often remained fearfully or defensively shut."
Come Back, Como is rich in passages like this one, which transcend the book's ostensible subject. Yes, on one level it's a book about a dog, but more importantly and interestingly, it's about the way in which this dog's bizarre story becomes, in the author's words, "another chapter in the unexpected and the unpredictable, the perpetually unfinished story of disappointment and resilience, menace and consolation, desolation and love, that life serves up in its unforeseeable way."