Author: Jason Mott
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Mira Books
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Purchase: Amazon•TBD (affiliate link)
Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.
Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time ... Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.
All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.
With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.
The Returned isn’t my usual type of read, but as soon as I heard about it, I was intrigued. All over the world, the deceased are returning to the land of the living. They’re not zombies, or anything supernatural really. They come back just as they were before they died. For Harold and Lucille Hargrave, it’s their 8 year old son who appears on their doorstep after 50 years. Neither of them really know what to think about this boy who may or may not be their son. Soon there’s a wave of Returneds being brought back into their tiny town and everyone is shaken up about it. Are they blessings from God or abominations from the devil? How many of the dead are going to return and will they outnumber the “real living”? Are the Returneds even people?
While The Returned has some Sci-Fi elements, it definitely reads more like Adult Contemporary. I was expecting this, but it still took me a few chapters to settle into it. The pacing is quite slow, and the book does cover an extended period of time. I think it worked though, fitting the small town pace of life. It was also a lot more religious than I anticipated, but it’s definitely not preachy at all. Lucille is a woman of faith, and so is much of the small Southern town of Arcadia. I actually found this to be extremely interesting because the people all had different views on the Returned. Many felt like it was God blessing them and reuniting them with loved ones, while others thought the Devil was tempting them. Before her son returns, Lucille is in that latter group, but once she sees him, something inside her flips. Her husband on the other hand was the opposite which surprised me.
After each chapter there are a few pages that show the returned from other places other than Arcadia. Some of these are happier than others, and some are downright disturbing, such as when Nazi’s appear outside of a Jewish community. The reactions to the dead returning are quite varied so I really liked these little snippets. It was also interesting how different places handled them differently, although the general consensus seemed to be that they’re not really people and need to be kept separate. At the end I wish there had been more about how this situation was resolved (or not) around the world. We only see what Arcadia is like, but I was also interested in how many people there were worldwide and if they were being accepted or not. This is the only reason The Returned gets 3-stars instead of 4. The ending just felt a little incomplete.
The Returned is certainly a thought provoking novel. I’m sure lots of people would want to see their deceased loved ones again, especially if they were taken away too early, but being faced with it in reality is much different than pondering the possibility. This book is quite different than anything I had read before, and I like that Harlequin is trying something new. While it didn’t work for me 100%, I would be interested in reading more titles like this one.
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