- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (August 27, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 0778315339
- Source: Publisher
In 1966, Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s son died at his eighth birthday party. Now in their seventies, their lives have resumed without him, filled with loss and regret. Then the dead begin to return, not as zombie-like version of their previous selves but exactly as they were when their lives were brought to an end. Harold and Lucille discussed what would happen if Jacob returned, both convinced that it was impossible for them to accept him as their son if he did return. And then it happened: a knock at the door changing their lives forever. A government man standing alongside their son, just as he was when he died.
Despite what she stated previously, Lucille welcomed him back with open arms. Harold was more reserved, unsure how to treat this little boy who, on the surface, looked just like his little boy whose body he recovered from the river. Harold isn’t the only one unsure of how to deal with “the Returned.” An entire government agency, the International Bureau of the Returned, was charged with dealing with this unusual phenomenon, including reuniting the Returned with their loved ones and asking the fateful question: “Do you want to keep them?” So many people were returning that the Bureau soon faced funding issues, spending it faster than they could accumulate it.
The social reaction to the Returned made the decision for them: concentration like camp facilities were created to house these individuals. One such camp is created in the Hargrave’s small town of Arcadia, causing an influx of Returned. The town shifts from a quite respite to a military-like front filled with armed soldiers. In addition to dealing with the rapid influx of residents it is difficult to ignore the questions left dangling: how and why did these individuals return? Has the world come to an end? Why are only some individuals returning, but not all?
The setting, our nation’s “Bible Belt” adds an interesting spin to this novel. A region that so passionately embraces and celebrates religion is forced to deal with a situation like no other. Their reaction seemed to be quite polarized: either they embraced the Returned, welcoming them back into their lives or shunned them like some sort of beast sent by the Devil. Their religion is tested at a time in which they are at their most vulnerable. The worst aspects of human nature come to the surface as the world as a whole is forced to come to terms with this miraculous event.
This debut novel was one of many books I mentioned during the Fall Preview event hosted by my favorite independent bookstore, One More Page Books & More. I mentioned it not only because it is a stunning debut, but of the reaction it evokes from readers. You’ll be left questioning your own response if you were in the Hargrave’s shoes. Would you be able to accept your loved one back?
My only issue with this novel is that we never learned how or why these individuals have returned. It is my fear that so many people will tear through the pages, hoping to receive some glorious revelation as to the cause of the return and in doing so miss out on some pretty outstanding writing. Mott himself explains that the inspiration from this book came from a dream he had a few years ago in which his mother, who passed away in the summer of 2001, returned from the dead and was waiting for him when he returned home from work. They had the opportunity to catch up on all things that she missed in the time she’d been gone. Upon waking from his dream Mott was left wondering what his reaction would be if that really happened. Understanding that the impetus for this novel came from somewhere so close to the author’s heart moved me, wanting me to contemplate these very questions myself.
So, while the cause of the return is never revealed, I think this was an intentional move on the part of the author. He doesn’t want readers to get caught up in the mechanics of what happened, instead focusing on the characters and their reactions, questioning our own responses should we ever find ourselves in this situation. So, I implore readers not to get so wrapped up in the how and why it happened but focus on the characters and their response to this life-altering experience. Highly, highly recommended.
It’s no surprise to me that ABC has picked up the pilot of a television series based on The Returned, renamed Resurrection for its television review. Check out the trailer:
The book trailer is pretty outstanding as well:
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the other stops along the way!
Also, if you are a fan of audiobooks, I do encourage you to check out these free prequels to The Returned.