The Returned - Jason Mott
One summer’s day, Agent Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned arrives at the home of Harold and Lucille Hargrave with their young son, Jacob, in tow. Jacob, who drowned on his eighth birthday almost fifty years before, is among the many long-dead who have been reappearing around the world, exactly as they were when they passed.
The Hargraves are no longer the young parents who lost their child that tragic day, but Lucille embraces Jacob as if it were yesterday, thrilled to have her darling son once again. The more skeptical Harold is not so sure. He was the one who found Jacob’s body in the river all those years ago; how could this little boy truly be his son?
From the Hargraves’ tiny Southern town of Arcadia to every corner of the globe, the Returned are appearing in increasing numbers, and their loved ones are both filled with gladness and alarmed by the implications. Questions of why the dead are returning remain unanswered—is it a miracle to celebrate or some portent of the end of days? Some, like Lucille, refuse to temper their newfound happiness with dark explanations, but many in Arcadia are fearful of the Returned. As public sentiment swings against them, the seemingly docile Returned are rounded up and detained in prisonlike camps. Their numbers continue to grow, and the camps become increasingly overcrowded and are targets for the brewing fear and hatred among the living.
When Jacob is interned, Harold stays with him, still confounded by what it all means. While one faction in Arcadia grows violent in its efforts to expel the Returned, others grapple with the sudden presence of those long absent—from an entire family murdered long ago under mysterious circumstances to the troubled first love of the town’s minister. As the skein of the once close-knit community unravels into a tangled “us vs. them” rhetoric and retribution—and similar public hysteria erupts around the world—the very definition of humanity will be called into question.
The biggest thing you need to know is that this? This is a DEBUT novel. So often an author has their debut and while it's good- it's not mind blowing. Some authors never write a book this good their entire lives but here you have Jason Mott hitting it out of park on his first try.
Secondly, this book will pull you in because of the story, the characters, and the implications on your own life if this were real. It's about the Hargraves mainly, who after 50 years are reunited with their song Jacob who died on his 8th birthday. Harold and Lucille had been watching the news of the "returned", the name given to the many people who have been dead for years but are coming back unchanged to their former lives for no rhyme or reason. So one day, Jacob is at the door with Agent Bellamy and while Lucille originally proclaimed the Returned are the work of the devil, faced with her own son she declares it a miracle from God. Harold is a bit more skeptical. He seems to know something isn't quite right but seeing Lucille's joy holds him back from turning Jacob away.
But Jacob isn't the only one. Dispersed through the novel are snippets from other Returned families and how not everyone has gotten an open armed welcome back.
What drives the entire book is the fear of the unknown. Nobody knows what to think of these people or is it a sign of the end times? But it also asks the question- what would you do differently? Would you love that person more? Would you have tried harder to be a better person in their lives? Would you have watched them better? And how will you grieve differently? So often you see parents who suffer through the tragic loss of a child- they will sometimes come together and grieve as a unit, or other times they grieve separately and go on living life with a vacant hole in them and just decide that's the best it'll ever get. I suppose what scares people the most is confronting their failures and the things they are ashamed they did or didn't do. It's uncomfortable and scary.
I so badly want to tell you how the book ends because it's perfect. It's a perfect kind of explanation, I suppose? It's like the Returned had a job they didn't know they had- it's like righting the wrongs, but not really. It's hard to really explain it without giving away the ending but I absolutely loved it. And I really had a soft spot for Harold. He reminds me of a Grandpa- that stern Grandpa you had that you know has a sentimental soft spot in there somewhere but times have hardened that, made it harder to recognize.
The really cool thing about this? It has been option by Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B, and will air on ABC this fall under the title, Resurrection.
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