All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Returned – Jason Mott

on September 2, 2013

The Returned WHO coverThe Returned (The Returned #1)
Jason Mott
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 340p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

All over the world, people’s loved ones are returning from the beyond. They return as they were when they died, the same age even though time has gone on without them. Harold and Lucille Hargrave lost their eight year old son Jacob in 1966 and now, some 50+ years later they are in their 70’s when he returns, the same 8yo boy that left them so many years ago.

In the time that Jacob have been gone, they have come to terms with their grief, come to terms with life going on for both of them without him. They are elderly now, not equipped to running around after the 8yo who has suddenly reappeared back in their lives. Jacob looks like their son, but he’s a little different. He eats a lot, he sleeps very little. Harold and Lucille struggle in different ways – Lucille is deeply religious and prior to Jacob turning up on their doorstep, she branded the Returned an abomination, devils. Now of course that it’s her own son that has come back to her, she wants to keep him. Harold does not, he knows that Jacob is dead, no matter what this is. But he acquiesces to Lucille’s wishes.

Not everyone is accepting of the new Returned. People are suspicious, uncertain, wondering what is going on because it cannot be explained and the Returned don’t seem to have any answers for them. Chaos erupts all over the globe, riots and protests and the government in America build a facility in small town Arcadia, North Carolina near Harold and Lucille’s home. It’s an old fashioned small town, not many people, not many facilities, a lot of open space. A place where the Returned might be corralled until such time as the government know how to move forward.

The newly-formed Hargrave family, strange now they may be find themselves caught squarely in the middle in their town. On one hand, Jacob is their son, they have time with him yet again. And on the other, they know that there is something not quite right about what is happening: why is it happening? And why only to some people? And there are rumblings within the town, rumblings of dissent which threatens Harold and Lucille’s second chance.

The Returned is one of those novels that has had huge wraps on it and there was a steady buzz even some six months before publication. The rights to the TV series have been sold to Brad Pitt’s production company and it’s rumoured to start shooting next year. Everything about this novel said that it was going to be big.

The idea is amazing and in the Author’s Note in the back of the book, Jason Mott explains where he got the idea from, that after dreaming of his mother some years after her death where he was having a conversation with her, he confided in friends and one said “What if she did return, even if just for one day?” And the idea was born. And I think the idea is fabulous for a story. So many people are taken too soon, too quickly or before you can say goodbye or tell them what you want to say. The idea of having them return, is on one hand, very tempting. For Lucille who lost her only child at just 8 years old, on his birthday party, it gives her the chance to once again experience things she thought she would never get to do again: cook a meal for him, tuck him in to bed at night, embrace him, tell him she loves him.

On the other hand, it also invokes fear. Because it’s not normal, it’s not natural. How and why is it happening?

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.”

In some ways, this novel is a beautiful story told well. We are introduced to Harold and Lucille who have had 50 years to grieve for their lost boy and adjust to life without him when he returns. They are in their 70s, readjusting to parenthood isn’t easy for either of them, particularly Harold who struggles with the idea that this boy is his boy. He found his boy’s body, he buried his boy. He doesn’t know what the child that has come back to them is, but he’s said his goodbyes, he’s grieved and he’s found his peace. He’s reluctant to engage with him, unlike Lucille however when Jacob is taken to a processing center for the Returned, Harold chooses to go with Jacob even though he does not have to. He doesn’t want the boy to be alone, to be without someone to take care of him. It is what Lucille would want.

However, I have to say that in other ways, this book loses it just a little bit. The beginning and end are done rather well, well paced and full of information, reveals and action. However the middle lags – far too much time is spent with Harold and Jacob at the processing center whilst not much is happening. I found my attention wandering during this part of the novel. I also think that while this book does very well at showing what happens in a small town, where fear can breed hate and distrust, it doesn’t give a very good job of painting the larger picture and with something this dramatic, the larger picture is what I want to see. There are snippets of other Returned, but it wasn’t quite enough to satisfy me.


Book #228 of 2013



5 responses to “The Returned – Jason Mott

  1. Michael says:

    Strange – why does this book sound so much like that french movie/TV series that has people ‘returning’ to their town?

  2. Shelleyrae says:

    I liked that Mott kept it local and personal instead of sensationalising it, though I do agree the detention period lagged a bit.

  3. Melinda says:

    I wish I picked this one up from Netgalley – seen so many reviews on this, and many have liked it. There are some that didn’t, but I guess not every book is for everyone 🙂

  4. I really couldn’t connect with this story at all, even though I thought it was a fantastic premise for a story. Completely agree with the middle dragging on, but I felt the whole book was a bit slow.. I didn’t really know where it was headed.

  5. Can’t wait to read this one. Know a lot more about this story after reading your review. Thanks.

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