Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

The Returned by Jason MottJacob 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.

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Review

Occasionally there will be a book I have difficulty commenting on. I can form opinions, but they’re usually all muddled and I never know where to begin, or how to share them. The Returned is one such title. If I’m able to, I usually draft a review straight away, but with The Returned I have waited a full day before doing so.

My expectations of The Returned were influenced by genre. When a world-wide phenomenon of people come back from the dead whole and you read mainly genre fiction, it’s hard not to be influenced by genre. I was frustrated during the story. I expect the reasons as to why something is happening to be explained at some point and then the story to go from there. This is not the case with The Returned. Be aware, you do not find out why these people are returning from the dead.

I struggled with my frustration, but I did hit a point where I began to note how much The Returned is written like contemporary fiction. There is a difference. Speculative fiction, science fiction, usually involves some universe, or world, and/or conspiracy, enemy. Eventually there is an explanation for the catalyst driving the story, but this isn’t always the case in contemporary fiction. About half way through I realised I needed to change my thinking around to accept The Returned as contemporary fiction rather than speculative.

There is no real enemy in The Returned except for mystery. The story highlights the human condition, our loneliness, our need for answers, our confusion, our need for action by others, and our stupidity. The story itself is presented via Harold and Lucille’s journey, but it is broken up by snippets of other characters who are mostly Returned.

I enjoyed the breaks form Harold and Lucille. While the story was set in a small town, each character gives you an idea of reactions to the phenomenon throughout the world. I did become confused at times though. I felt I was being told more than shown and at times the look into another character’s life didn’t exactly give me a preset to connect with.

I did however find myself compelled to keep reading, I read whole chunks at a time, and was quite sad by the end. I could understand some of what Jason Mott was aiming for. There are no answers because life doesn’t offer them to you, especially when we lose loved ones.

I’ve watched the first few episodes of the show, which has been adapted from the story, and it is so much different. It will not give you spoilers, at least not where I watched up to. The concept is the same, but everything else differs. The characters, the setting, the reactions; all of it has been altered enough where you can watch the show alongside reading the book and there will be no conflict.

I may not have learnt where The Returned came from and I may still be curious as to the why’s, but I’ve felt deeply affected by the story.

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One thought on “Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

  1. I appreciate the clarity in your review. I just recently found your blog and am enjoying it–I, too, love speculative fiction. Your reviews seem to be written in the exact way I prefer to find reviews. [grin] Thank you!

    Like

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