Author: Jason Mott
Publication date: August 27th, 2013
Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
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.
I received an e-copy of The Returned from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When scouring the listings on NetGalley for some books that were fresh and new and had gotten a lot of buzz, The Returned was at the top. I immediately requested it and waiting to hear if I had gotten it. Meanwhile, my boyfriend had entered a giveaway and won a paperback ARC of the book. I glared at him for his luck and was almost coming to the realization that I'd have to borrow his copy if I were going to read it when the approval e-mail came. I was so excited and dived right into the book.
This book opens on a world where dead loved ones are started to return. They are not digging out of their graves like mindless zombies, they are being placed in random areas all over the world and set to journey back to their families by any means necessary. The government, seeing the sudden rise of dead people being reported returning, set forth to start collecting the Returned and getting them to their families.
One such story of this occurrence is with the Hargrave family who suffered a loss nearly fifty years ago, of their one and only, eight-year-old son. Much to their shock, and in the case of Harold mistrust, Jacob is returned to them after being found wandering the shores of China. Lucille, like most other grieving mothers, takes Jacob in no questions asked. Harold is a bit more resistant and keeps their Returned son at arm's length.
Eventually, the government notices more and more Returned are coming back and the population is swelling. Unsure what this means for their world, they start forming concentration camps (essentially) for the Returned. Harold and his son wind up in just such a camp as their small town is slowly swallowed up by the imprisoned Returned camp.
It is only a matter of time before one side breaks. The living, sick of sharing their world with those who had died, or the Returned, who are mistreated out of fear and confusion. What will remain of the world once these two groups of people start to wage war between each other?
While reading this book, I made the mistake of skimming a fellow book blogger's review. I was curious what I was in store for while reading it and I found her statement that "this book is slow so if you like a lot of action quickly in a story, it may not be for you" to be emphatically true. I am the type who likes things to happen proto. The slow build just drives me insane and causes me to lose focus quickly. It is probably why it too me so long to read this book when normally it takes me no time at all to consume a fine work of literature.
While this book was not particularly to my liking, there are some fine points. The writing itself is an overwhelming example of the author being a poet. The environmental and emotional descriptions were lyrical and melodious. They made me want to close my eyes and see the world he created for his characters in vivid color. The plot overall was another fine attribute. Who would have even thought about this sort of premise without it evolving into something religious? Surely not me.
Jason Mott put his poetic skills to use in the heart-wrenching symphony of The Returned. It is meant to feel like a slow, deep breath that is held in the chest until the very end, where in a gust, it all spills out of one's body and we are left feeling the ache of our own loved ones who will never return.