It says a lot about a book when I finish it in one sitting. In fact, after I finished reading The Returned by Jason Mott, I could not stop thinking about it. Dare I say it’s one of my top picks of the year? I do. The Returned is a haunting story about our fear of the unknown and society’s sense of morality.
This speculative fiction kept my brain running on overtime. I had to write down my thoughts inside my copy of the galley. Yes, I wrote in the book, something I hardly do. It might be my favorite book I’ve read all year.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your deceased loved ones returned? Not in a creepy Stephen King Pet Semetary way, but randomly appeared as if nothing had happened to them? With no knowledge of how they died. In The Returned, that’s exactly what happens. Some people died in the past few years, some 50 years ago. They return at the same age they werewhen they died.
No one knows how it happens or why they have come back. Imagine your formerly deceased child returning 50 years later. At first it’s just a few people here and there. Then more and more return, all over the world. Some families accept their Returned with open arms, while others are suspicious and refuse contact. Eventually, there are so many Returned that paranoia sets in. That fear of the unknown powers decisions that might not be in everyone’s best interest, Returned or not.
The novel is told in vignettes from different characters’ point of views. The family we see the most is Harold’s family. He and his wife are at odds over their Returned son who drowned on his eighth birthday. Harold and Lucille have grown old together, yet once again they are parents to an eight-year-old boy. I found myself unable to choose sides. Would I react like Harold or like Lucille?
Mott touches on so many themes in his novel: afterlife, genocide, unconditional love, regret, redemption. There’s even political implications when the Returned are rounded up into internment camps, similar to the US’s internment of Japanese Americans. There’s even a scene of Returned Nazi soldiers and the present day Jews who protected them. None of it is preachy. It’s a slice of humanity in an extreme circumstances. We see the people who desperately want their deceased back and will take them in any way they can: unconditional love. Or maybe it’s blind love. What is the value of human life? Can the Returned be considered human?
If you’re looking for a book club read, definitely consider The Returned by Jason Mott. There is so much to discuss. In fact, I need to find someone who has read it because I need to talk about it! (Gayle?)
The book has already been optioned into a television series titled Resurrection starring Omar Epps. I’m very glad that the tv folks didn’t whitewash Agent Bellamy’s character. Omar Epps isn’t too bad to look at either. It premieres in March 2014. I think the novel lends itself tv very well. Check out the trailer above.
Undoubtedly, The Returned is a keeper on my bookshelf. I eagerly wait for Jason Mott’s next book.
If you want a sneak peak into The Returned, Mott wrote several short stories as “prequels” to his novel. Each prequel has an excerpt of the novel. The Kindle editions of The Choice, The First, and The Sparrow are currently free, so give it a try.
I received a copy of the book for review.