Book Review: The Returned by Jason Mott
August 21, 2013 26 Comments
The publisher says: “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, 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: What I thought
The premise of this book sounded intriguing: what if the dead came back to life? No, not as zombies, but as the persons they once were, appearing from nowhere, the same age as when they died.
In the book, we follow a couple in their seventies, Lucille and Harold, whose son Jacob died at the age of eight, but has now returned. Lucille is over the moon, but Harold finds it hard to believe that this really is their son, and not a fake version of him.
The story was a personal story about love and loss, as well as a country-wide story about dealing with the large number of returned people. The government’s dealing with the situation reminded me somewhat of the way the Nazis treated the Jews (just put them all together for “processing”) as well as how slaves were treated (for certain kinds of people, different rules apply).
I would have liked to look into the minds of the Returned a bit more. They were featured at the beginning of each chapter, but I never got a clear idea of what they thought of the situation. Did they notice their loved ones were so much older than when they left them the first time? Didn’t they think that was strange? Weren’t there cases where parents who died young returned to their children who were now much older than they ever were? I missed those kind of technicalities in this story.
But, as the writer himself explains in the afterword, the book is all about the question what would happen if our loved ones reappeared from the death, from the viewpoint of the people still alive. This probably also explains why little attempts were made to explain how these people had returned. I guess it was more of a thought-experiment than a possible reality. With my scientific mind, I’d loved some more explanation, though!
“How’s your mother?”
“Dead,” he said, more flatly than he had planned. “Or maybe she isn’t. It’s hard to be sure these days.” [page 258]
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)
Number of pages: 352
First published: 2013
I got this: from Harlequin MIRA via Netgalley (ebook)
Genre: speculative fiction, science fiction