Author: Jason Mott
Genre: supernatural, general and literary fiction
Published: September 27 2013
Pages: 352 (ARC edition)
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
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.
Anyone who has lost someone they loved has thought about what it would mean and what it would be like to see them again - just one more time. But what if they came back to stay? With The Returned, Jason Mott takes that heartfelt curiosity and turns it into a complex reality for his debut novel. It's an otherworldly scenario that begins with uncertainty, escalates to fear, and eventually evolves into violence. It's a sadly accurate look into how people can and do react to things that they do not understand. And when the dead start reappearing, life gets really complicated in Arcadia, Missouri.
The "once-dead" "Returned" aren't zombies. Though they were dead and are still around, they think, feel, eat, sleep, remember. But the question at the heart of The Returned is -- are they actually people? In the small Southern town of Arcadia, the debate over the nature of the Returned is volatile and key to the plot. Some consider them devils, others consider them just people. Tensions escalate as the book progresses and the government takes extreme measures to safeguard both the "True Living" and the Returned.
This isn't a book about answers, how-to's or why's of how the Returned people come back to life. It's more of an in -depth exploration of what would happen in such a situation than interested in giving answers about the reasons. It's a slow, contemplative sort of novel; one clearly more focused on the human side of things rather than the scientific. Things move along slowly until they don't. The narrative is mainly concerned with the life of Harold and Lucille Hargrave and their Returned son, Jacob, though The Returned does showcase other Returned experiences interspersed with their main storyline.
The comparisons to Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles are spot on. Both books boast unadorned but lovely prose, feature unlikely scenarios that nevertheless will catch a reader's immediate attention, and create complex characters for which to inhabit their world. This is a unique idea and Jason Mott is more than equal to the task of conveying the intricacies that would arise in such a supernatural situation. As a debut novel, The Returned is an impressive first effort.
As an added bonus, there is a tv series in the works based on this book. It's called Resurrection, and besides a few basic changes (they've shortened time Jacob was dead (50+ to 32 years), aged down the parents, changed how Jacob died, and how he reconnects with parents) it seems like a interesting adaptation. There are also three free novellas/prequels you can obtain to see if this style of writing and plot are for you.