Written By: Jason Mott
Published By: Mira, an imprint of Harlequin August 2013
Length: 352 pages
As Jason Mott begins his story, people are returning all over the world. They are returning from the dead. While this sounds like science fiction and whoodoo, it’s very real, especially to the families who loved them, the returned are a blessing and a conundrum. Such is the story of Harold and Lucille Hargrave. In 1966 their son Jacob drowns in a river on his eighth birthday. Fifty years later a small boy telling a joke is on their front porch, Harold is flummoxed and Lucille simply faints. The man from The International Bureau of The Returned is with Jacob. The Hargraves had talked about what they would do if this were to happen to them, but rational thinking went out the window when it appears Jacob is reunited with them.
There is debate world wide as to who these people are…are they people at all? Are they the devil in a reincarnation? This division separates families and townspeople and the growing demands for the government to control The Returned. With no simple answers the Hargrave family seems to be at the center of a smoldering controversy right in their hometown. The resolution is heartbreaking.
The themes that resonate most in The Returned are those of love and loss and even a feeling of redemption and forgiveness. While the book focuses most on Jacob’s family and his return, there are other families in their small southern town of Arcadia who are impacted. The pastor receives a letter that someone is looking for him. An entire family who was brutally murdered has returned. Between chapters there are stories from all over the world where the Returned are showing up, most on a journey to find those they loved. There are no zombies are obvious threats from those returning. The fears of many will remind the reader of the panic that has ensued often in our history when we feel an implied threat from a rather innocent group of people, like the imprisonment of numerous Japanese Americans during WWII.
The bureau agent, Martin Bellamy, develops a deep fondness for Harold and Lucille, he appears to spend more time with them than with other Returned families. His sincere care and empathy is visible and you sense he is learning much from the Hargraves.
When I first read the synopsis of The Returned I was unsure if I wanted to read it. Then I read an amazing review, and my mind was changed, I also had the pleasure of hearing Jason Mott speak and I couldn’t wait to read more. The idea for The Returned came to Mott after he dreamed of his deceased mother sitting at his kitchen table and just chatting with him. He began to question what it would be like if our loved ones were to return to us, what would we say or do. This book is brilliant and the prose flows with such ease that reading it happens way too quickly. I’ve given it 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend it. I believe it would make for wonderful book club discussion. Kudos to Jason Mott, this, his debut novel, has also been on the NYT Bestseller list for several weeks!! Looking forward to much more from him. I won’t easily forget the lessons this book taught me, and made me recall my own father who we said good bye to just this past March.