Title: The ReturnedAuthor: Jason Mott
Publication Date: August 27,2013
How I Got It: at Decatur book festival author announcements
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 ad 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 conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.
** This review contains spoilers **
The premise of this book caught my attention as soon as I read the back cover. The whole idea of "what if" when applied to life after death is fascinating and I was interested to see what Mott's moral was going to be. In what could be described as the opposite of the "Left Behind" series, The Returned forces us to ask ourselves what we would do if a long dead loved one suddenly "returned"? As Mott layers in the government forces and growing unrest of the small town's citizens, he exposes the ugliness of humanity. It is not difficult to draw parallels to Japanese internment or Nazi concentration camps. The novel proves the point of not knowing someone's true character until pressure is applied. Previously harmless women and men incite riots and carry out vigilante justice, while others protect and provide for others. Mott pushes the boundaries of skin color, race and religion to now include a previously unimaginable group of citizens. My disappointment in the fact that Mott never provides the cause of the "returned" is wrapped up in some faint hope that this may be the beginning of a series. While there are three prequels to The Returned: The First, The Sparrow, and The Choice, there is no confirmation of any sequels. I wanted....more. I wanted a story about the afterlife, a lesson about grief, anything more than what I got. I was anticipating a turn, especially when Lucille leaves the family at her house and she "feels" something. I thought "yes, here comes the reason for the return" but nope. I was even expecting something similar to Stephen King's Under the Dome (which had me pretty disappointed as well.) The underlying question all the other characters wanted to know was not addressed. Is there an afterlife? I understand that Mott was attempting to show the patterns of humanity but I would have appreciated a moral.