Hardcover, 352 pages
"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."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 and 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 this is happening, 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 a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.
What would you do if your dead loved ones suddenly came back to life? That is the premise for The Returned a debut novel by Jason Mott. Harold and Lucille Hargrave's only child, Jacob, tragically drowned on his eighth birthday in 1966. The couple, now in their seventies, were questioning whether or not the Returned were real people just before Jacob, still 8 years old, is returned to them by Agent Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned. Harold and Lucille have to decide if they want to accept Jacob's return and accept him as their son or as a miraculous imitation of their son. And, as they struggle with the meaning of the Returned, more and more Returned are coming back, threatening to overtake the real living people, which isn't going over too well with some factions.
The numerous questions and emotions that would be swirling around in a world where loved ones come back for a time makes this a gripping premise for a novel. What was, perhaps, left unsaid could be shared. Hugs could be given. In some cases, closure could finally be found. But, alternately, how would the world cope with countless people returning to life, looking for their families or loved ones, not to mention overwhelming the resources available? And spiritual questions would naturally arise too. The logistics of a worldwide event of this magnitude are almost too numerous to list.
Mott, primarily known for his poetry, brings a special love of language to the pages of The Returned. Simultaneously, the depth of emotions, dysphoria, and moral questions that emerge make the reader confront their own beliefs concerning the mystery of the sudden appearance of the Returned. Would it bring out the best or worst in you? Don't expect any explanation or extensive character development as the event and the plot drive the narrative. Mott ultimately provides little explanation for the Returned, focusing more on the emotional turmoil that would occur.
Apparently The Returned may be part of a series. It has been optioned to be developed as a TV series by Brad Pitt's production company.
Very Highly Recommended
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Harlequin via Netgalley for review purposes.