Book #140 – The Returned

17182421When I was in Bath with Alex, my boyfriend, a couple of weeks ago, he suggested that we watch this TV show called Resurrection, which is about, well, people coming back to life. We watched the entire first season in about a day and a half, and while googling to find out more about it, I realised that it was based on a book, which I promptly hunted down and read – more promptly than I’ve watched the second season of Resurrection, which I’m about a month behind on.

The Returned – Jason Mott

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.

I was biased about this book, because I came to it from the starter of the ABC television series – I was expecting something similar, quite high-drama, a lot of human intrigue and plotting, and really a dramatic kind of thing. That was pretty much as far from the tone of this book as I could’ve gotten – it’s a much gentler, more searching sort of book, far more introspective, and more about human relationships than the drama which the tv show thrives on.

I think if I’d come to this book on its own, and not had my opinion tainted by the drama of Resurrection, I would’ve had a far more open mind about it. As it was, I was expecting a climax, some drama, a lot more drama, to be quite honest, and I ended up disappointed.
That’s my own mistake, though.
The Returned is really a very nice book – its unusual plot device (non-brain-eating or generally ‘bad’ zombies!) allows the author to investigate questions of ageing, death, loss, religion, family relationships, tolerance, and societal attitudes to new and unusual things and he does all that in a really gorgeous kind of way. His prose isn’t given to flowery over-description, but gets across the essentials and the human feelings of his characters. The Returned is a quiet and interesting inspection of a lot of very human issues, and it’s a strong example of that.

Because I came at the book from the wrong angle, I think I enjoyed it much less than I would’ve had I been reading with a more open mind. For me, so, it was a lower rating than it probably deserved, objectively.

Three Stars

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