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What would you do if you had a second chance with the one that got away?

More than thirty-five years ago, Gordon Meyers, an aspiring writer with a low number in the draft lottery, packed his belongings and reluctantly drove away, leaving behind Glenna Rising, the sexy, sharp-witted med student he couldn’t imagine living without.

Now, decades later, Gordon is a former globe-trotting consultant with a grown son, an ex-wife, and an overwhelming desire to see Glenna again. Though she’s stunned when Gordon walks into her Manhattan office, Glenna agrees to accompany him for a drink. As the two head out into the snow-swept city, they rediscover the passion that once drew them together—before it tore them apart. And as the evening unfolds, Gordon will finally reveal the true reason for his return. . . .

Comeback Love is an evocative journey into the hearts of two lovers who came of age in the 1960s, and who never truly let each other go. Plumbing the depths of youth, regret, and desire, Peter Golden deftly illuminates the bonds that mysteriously endure in the face of momentous change.

This reading group guide for Comeback Love includes discussion questions intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Topics & Questions for Discussion


1. What do you think Comeback Love is saying about first loves, and about long-term commitments? Is love all about timing?

2. Glenna is actively and successfully pursuing a respected career, while Gordon is somewhat fumbling his way through his education and pursuing his own professional dream. How much does this influence their dynamic?

3. What did you make of Gordon’s relationship with his father? How do you think their bond affected Gordon’s relationship with his own son, Alex?

4. Gordon’s mother says, “‘I don’t dislike Glenna. But I love you, and she’s a girl like your sister, and they . . . they hurt men.’” (p. 65) Do you think that, ultimately, Glenna hurts Gordon—or do they mutually hurt each other?

5. What precisely does Gordon’s mother mean when she says that Glenna is a girl like Elaine? How would you describe Gordon’s relationship with his sister? Does he ever come to see the similarities that his mother sees?

6. Describing his relationships since Glenna, Gordon admits, “‘ I never trusted enough to feel that way about anyone else.’” (p. 218) Do you feel that this is something that always happens after first love, or was their relationship uniquely transformative?

7. How would you describe the marriage between Glenna’s parents? How does it compare to the one Gordon’s parents share? Do you think their respective models of relationships impact how Glenna and Gordon’s own romance evolves?

8. “[It] would be some time before I understood that this was precisely the problem, the beginning of our end, that Glenna loved me. So much.” (p. 109) Do you agree with Gordon’s assessment that this moment signified an unraveling? And why is Glenna’s love for Gordon the problem?

9. Consider the circumstances (psychological and logistical) that lead Gordon and Robin to sleep together. Do you think Glenna knew this might happen when she suggested that the two of them go to Woodstock without her? Were you surprised by this outcome?

10. What do you think prompted Gordon’s father to bring the family and Glenna to Zalman’s restaurant? How were these motives different from those that drive Gordon to return to New York to see Glenna?

11. Consider the ways in which Comeback Love is simultaneously a timeless story of first love, while also being very much a story of its time. How do current events (in both the past and present sections) inform the action of the narrative and the development of the plot?

12. “‘This could be my child.’ ‘Our child,’ I corrected her. She shook her head, unwilling to concede that this was about me too. I could have the blame for knocking her up, not the credit.” (p. 202). Who did you empathize with here—Glenna or Gordon?

13. Discuss why Gordon failed to submit his Selective Service form. Do you think he wanted to go to Vietnam, or did he want to escape New York? How are these two desires different?

14. Imagine you are the casting director for the film version of Comeback Love. Who would you cast as young Gordon and young Glenna? Who would play them in the present-day scenes?
Photograph by Ben Golden

Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, novelist, biographer, and historian. He lives outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son. He is the acclaimed author of the novels Comeback Love, Wherever There Is Light, and Nothing Is Forgotten.

“Stirring and romantic, a sweeping novel about first loves and second chances.”

—Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Opposite of Me

"An absorbing, intelligent novel about retracing one’s steps to recover what was lost, and about coming to terms with the mistakes of the past in order to rediscover a future. Peter Golden reminds us that going back is sometimes the only way to move ahead." —Elizabeth Brundage, author of A Stranger Like You and The Doctor's Wife

“Glenna and Gordon's romance rises and falls with the familiar but engrossing tempo of reckless, youthful passion.” —Publishers Weekly

"Golden’s breakout debut fiction is a passionate story of love, loss and reconciliation… Grab a handful of tissues, think The Notebook and then start speculating on actors best suited to bring Gordon and Glenna to the big screen." —Kirkus

“The sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic emotional dancing Gordon and Glenna engage in reads as honestly and accurately as any love story between two people who come together, come apart, then reconnect decades later. The repositioning of the characters between past and present never jars and should suit those who enjoy love stories along the lines of those by Nicholas Sparks and Sarah Pekkanen.” —Booklist

More books from this author: Peter Golden