The Returned, by Jason Mott
Title: The Returned
Author: Jason Mott
Originally Published: 2013 (August 27, 2013)
Format I Read: Ebook (via Netgalley)
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
I received this book for free from the publisher. All content and opinions are my own.
Please excuse this brief interruption to Utah Book Month coverage here at The Bluestocking Society. (Though, this book does have a reference to Utah in it. Woot.)
The Returned is about a very interesting idea: what if the dead returned, not as undead monsters, but as they were when they died?
The principal characters are Harold and Lucille Hargrave. They are an older, rather crotchety couple, whose lives were forever changed when Jacob, their eight year old son, died. It has been decades since that tragedy, when Jacob shows up at their door, just as they remember him, returned by a government agency when he was found wandering in Asia. As more and more of the dead Return, the world starts to fall apart in general and for the Hargraves in particular.
As I mentioned, there is such a creative and fascinating conceit in The Returned. Unfortunately, the book as a whole fell short of the promise of that conceit. I felt no emotional connection to any of the characters in this book, least of all Harold and Lucille. As a parent of a three-year-old, I would have expected to be in severe emotional turmoil reading about the predicament of these parents. Is this really their eight-year-old son or something else? How will they deal with being parents again after all of these years? How would you feel if your dead child was returned to you? But I didn’t feel anything. And maybe that is because, as far as I can find on the internets, Mr. Mott is not a parent himself. But even if he is, he failed to communicate that parental desperation to me. The pacing and plot were problematic too. The middle part dragged for sure. And the end was disappointing because all of the promising themes suggested by the idea were either not explored or left to fizzle out.
I did like the small vignettes, sprinkled throughout the book, that told the story of the Returned in other places and in other situations. Another strong point was the writing itself – the observations and phrases. There were excellent insights throughout, and I found myself electronically highlighting a great deal. Here is one example:
“The whole world’s gone and lost their minds. People can just come and take folks from a home like prisoners. They even knocked the damned door off its hinges, Pastor. Took me an hour to fix it back. Who does a thing like that? It’s the End Times, Pastor! God help us all.”
“Now, Ms. Lucille. I never thought of you as the end-of-the-world type.”
“Neither did I, but look around you. Look at how things have become. It’s just horrible. It makes me believe that maybe Satan isn’t to blame for our current condition, not the way they say, at least. Maybe he never even came into the garden. Maybe Adam and Eve plucked the fruit all on their own and chose to throw the blame on Satan.”
I think Mott is a promising writer. I’ll definitely be on the watch for his future projects, but this one just didn’t quite work for me.
The Returned, by Jason Mott [rating:3]
Also, The Returned has been optioned for an ABC show called Resurrection.