Sunday 15 September 2013

The Returned by Jason Mott

The Returned
Harold opened the door that day to find a dark-skinned man in a well-cut suit smiling at him. At first he thought of reaching for his shotgun, but then he remembered that Lucille had made him sell it years ago on account of an incident involving a traveling preacher and an argument having to do with hunting dogs.
Published in August by Harlequin MIRA
Pages – 352
Book Summary
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 centre 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.
The concept behind this story blew my mind. Imagine what would happen if the  dead started turning up on the doorsteps of their loved ones as though they never left. Mind boggling isn’t it! Before embarking on the journey through this tale, I tried to imagine how I would feel if my relatives turned up – would I accept them as though they never left or push them away because they couldn’t possibly be the same person?  A difficult thought to settle for anyone. Intrigued by these questions I dived into this book. I loved the contrasting reactions from different people as the dead returned, looking just as they did when they died.
The book centres on an older couple, Harold and Lucille, who find their son returned to them who died in accident many years ago. Grieving for most of their married life and tired with time and age, they now have their beloved son back to look after. Each of them deals with this dramatic change to their lives in different ways.
As more and more of the dead appear through the world, their little town panics and the government move in to control the arrivals, by actually capturing them and keeping them imprisoned. I found that aspect of the story extremely sad and hard to read. I can understand how people would panic – this is unknown territory – what if the dead end up outnumbering the living? Yet to see them caged like animals reminded me of  the concentration camps in WWII and it really did upset me.
As the book progresses, the situation with the returned goes out of control, to such an extent that an unofficial war erupts between the previously dead and the unliving, resulting in a rather sad ending.
I can’t deny this book was well written, but unfortunately it left me with more questions than answers. I wanted to know what had made the dead return and I felt that was glossed over. My brain couldn’t cope with the lack of explanation and that spoilt it a little for me.
I understand that this book was looking specifically at a family’s reactions at dealing with this situation, but at times I had to skim over their story. For a long period of the book, events seemed slow to move on and I found the plot dragging a little. It felt like something was missing – almost as if the plot was actually happening behind the scenes. This book might have worked better if their had been a dual story with another Returned person, rather than snippets about some of them.
On the whole this story is an excellent idea, with a brilliant setup and beautiful prose, but if you are going to create such a daunting idea that smashes existing spiritual and scientific beliefs then you have to come up with some plausible theories as to why the events happened.

1 comment:

  1. Is this what the recent TV series was based upon? I haven't watched it yet but have it taped to do so. It does sound a hard book to read in many ways - especially if you have lost people yourself.

    Good review - thought provoking.


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