By: Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: August 2013
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: July 16, 2013
What would you do if your son, who had been dead over forty years, suddenly appeared at your doorstep? That is exactly the quandary that Harold and Lucille Hargrave are faced with in the opening scene of Jason Mott's debut novel, The Returned.
Harold and Lucille lost their son Jacob in 1966 on his eighth birthday when he wandered down to the local river and drowned. As expected, the horrible accident tore at their lives and relationships but somehow, they managed to go on with their lives. Now well into their eighties, the couple co-exist as they deal with declining health and loneliness. That was until Agent Martin Bellamy from the International Bureau of the Returned rang the doorbell. When Harold answered, he saw the agent along with his son, still eight years old.
While the return of Jacob is a miracle (or is it a curse?), the real miracle is that people who have died all over the world have started to 'return.' When they come back, the memories of their deaths are sketchy at best, many don't remember a thing. In addition, they don't return to their original homes or even the places where they died. The spots where they reappear seem to be random. In Jacob's case, he found himself suddenly in a small farming village in China, frightened and alone.
While Jacob instantly settles down into his new/old home, his parents are not in agreement about the boy. It seems Harold is convinced the boy is not his son while Lucille will do just about anything to keep her little boy with her. As more and more people 'return' however, the townspeople, and in fact, people around the world, become more and more uneasy. Again, the living seem split on what is happening, whether it is a miracle or something sinister that has been visited upon the world.
As is often the case, people tend to fear what they don't understand so the 'Bureau,' a.k.a. the government, begin to round up the Returned and re-home then to various encampments. One such establishment is in the Hargrave's small hometown of Arcadia, North Carolina. As the government trucks in more and more of the Returned, however, the townspeople get more and more unsettled until it appears that tempers have reached a boiling point.
Jason Mott got the idea for his debut novel after having a dream about his mother in 2010, years after her passing. They had a simple, wonderful conversation and that was all the happened in the dream. But the dream stayed with Mott for many months and got him wondering, 'what if?' and thus The Returned was born. The writing is succinct and descriptive without wasting time on flowery, fluffy imagery - there's no need to because Mott paints a picture of love, fear, horror, suspense and gets the reader to question what faith really means, in a crisp and concise way. If you want a book you truly can't put down, and one that will stay with you long after you turn the last page, pick up a copy of The Returned.
Quill says: An awesome debut novel that will have you asking yourself - "what would I do if a lost loved one suddenly showed up at my doorstep???"