Book Review: The Returned

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Author: Jason Mott
ISBN: 9781743560525
RRP: $29.99

Jason Mott’s debut novel, The Returned, has been named one of the most anticipated novels of 2013 and I can attest that it’s been highly anticipated by me ever since it arrived on my TBR pile. I have been ignoring it’s cries of “Read Me” for a number of weeks but as the publication date approaches I finally could drown it out no longer.

I had read a little about the book before I started it and knew a little of the basis of the story but I was still largely unsure of what to expect.

Mott has woven a tale of wonder and the weaknesses of human nature. The narrative is set largely in the Southern town of Arcadia where the Hargraves live but it is interspersed with snippets from all over the world and totally unrelated characters.

An inexplicable phenomena is happening all over the world, those who have died are returning from the other side and trying to get back to the lives they lived before. Labelled the Returned these beings are creating chaos across the world, mainly because they are unable to be explained but also because as time passes more and more of them are returning and no-one is sure where it will end.

In the early days attempts were made to reunite the Returned with their families but as their numbers grow it becomes more difficult to keep up, and of course the government have created a Bureau to take control of the situation though their methods are extremely questionable. One of the many things about the Returned that no-one can understand is the fact that they are appearing in all manner of places with absolutely no explanation or relevance to their lives before.

the returned

Young Jacob Hargrave was born and raised in Arcadia, until his tragic demise at his 8th birthday party at his home, yet he returned to China. This is only one example and he returned quite early, with the Bureau in its early stages and still trying to reunite the Returned with their loved ones. He arrives on the Hargrave’s doorstep with Agent Martin Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned.

There is much throughout this novel that makes you think, what would you do if one of your loved ones Returned? Would you welcome them, would you turn your back on them?

Thousands are returning and there seems to be no rhyme or reason, they aren’t returning to get justice for being wronged or for unfinished business that I could see. There also seems to be no time limit which begs the question of where does it all end. How many people can be accommodated? Jacob has been gone 50 years and like all of those returning he hasn’t aged a day since he left.

How do you pick up the life you left when the world marched on as time stood still for you? Jacob returns to the world the 8 year old boy that left but his parents are no longer in their 20’s or 30’s. The love of your life returns still a 16 year old and now you are in your 40’s, how do you move on from there. Life moved on, you made a life, and now you’re approaching middle age and even if you still feel the same love how do you pick up where you left off with that sort of age difference?

I loved this book, I love the questions it inspired and the way it made me think about the situation. There were many different factions of the still living and everyone had a different opinion of the situation. The Returned were miracles, evil, a precursor to ‘end-days’, not the real people they claimed to be but regardless of what side of the fence people were on no-one could offer a reason why. Not the scientific community or the religious community and that seems to be a major reason the public had such issues, no-one likes things they can’t explain.

What would you do if you got a second chance with someone you have loved and lost? Would you make the most of the opportunity you had been given or would you run from what you couldn’t explain or understand? I think another big questions that was raised is how would you react to seeing thousands of thousands of people return and not be reunited with the one you loved the most?

No-one can be sure if the Returned are who they seem to be and not understanding why they have returned makes people extremely suspicious. Are they real people, are they the people that were lost? They look the same, they talk the same, they carry the memories but how does that stack up with the knowledge that you said goodbye for what you thought was forever?

The story of the Hargraves was touching, and heartbreaking. Sometimes you have to take the chances that have been afforded you even if you don’t understand where they come from and sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe even when it’s not the simple choice and even if it means you stand alone.

We remain focused on the Hargraves and Arcadia though reports filter in of similar things happening all over the world. The conditions vary from place to place but everywhere the number of Returned is growing and we have to wonder what will happen when the Returned outnumber the still living?

Definitely worthy of the anticipation and a novel I would recommend unreservedly. An inspired debut with depth and substance.

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