Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Returned by Jason Mott
3.0 out of 5 stars - We fear most what we do not understand...
Harold and Lucille Hargrave, in their early 70s, are living a quiet life in Arcadia, North Carolina when television news broadcasts report that people all over the world are returning from the dead. They had suffered a horrible tragedy 50 years previously when their beloved only son, Jacob, drowned in a river by their property on his eighth birthday. Time has dulled the pain and they have come to an acceptance of their fate. Lucille has embraced religion to make sense of her loss, but both of them live in a state of perpetual loneliness from the missing. They somehow moved on.
One afternoon, Federal Agent Martin Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned appears on their doorstep -- with their son. Jacob looks exactly as he did the day he died. Unchanged. Harold and Lucille are stunned, confused and conflicted. Then Agent Bellamy asks the question -- "Do you want to keep Jacob?" of course they do...or do they?
This fairly short novel had a really interesting premise and I was so eager to read it but I must say I ended up being disappointed by the execution of the story. The action was confined to the North Carolina town and though there are glimpses of other stories, the scope of the phenomenon was diluted by its focus on Arcadia and what happened there.
It's a tale of fear and prejudice against the Returned who are basically sequestered and treated like prisoners. They are rounded up and brought from other places to Arcadia and put inside a compound guarded by soldiers. Far too much of the book is spent on describing conditions inside the prison than was necessary for the reader to get the point: different is scary and when we don't have answers or explanations we must protect ourselves from them and keep them away from the real living folks. Stereotypical characters go through the motions of demonstrating that prejudiced and the expected outcome - violence - occurs as predicted. I could never understand just how, since there were so many after all, people could tell who was a Returned. So many unanswered technical and obvious questions went unexplained so the story was in many ways quite superficial. I guess I prefer more science than paranormal.
The author explains his motivation for writing this book in an afterword and indicates that this novel was a cathartic process for him.
I hesitantly suppose, for anyone who has ever wondered, it is probably for the best that the dead stay dead. Despite our longing for our loved one(s) who have died, we could never probably understand how and why they would come back to life. And what we would do with them and for them if they did.
A good debut novel that leaves you with a lot of things to ponder.
Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for the ebook ARC.