The Returned by Jason Mott

Just read The Returned by Jason Mott.

Now firstly to my confessions.  I recently watched the French tv series The Returned (The Revenants)(which was very good and chilling by the way) and I thought this was perhaps the inspiration or vice versa.  I thought I’d read the book and give the two a bit of a comparison.  As it is the two are completely separate – so there it is – I’m a maniac but don’t tell anyone!

So, The Returned.  This is a really good story to be honest and also a little bit emotional.  It wasn’t quite what I expected but surprises in reading can be great finds.

Okay, the story is all about dead people.  That little kid in Sixth Sense who saw dead people – well, get over that, everybody is seeing dead people in this book.  Due to some strange phenomenon, that remains unexplained, the dead start to return.  They appear in places unfamiliar to them in life and are once again perfectly intact.  They have a memory of their life before and still love the people from their lives prior to death.  At first nobody knows what to do with the Returned.  At first they are returned to the people from their past – although sometimes those people may no longer be alive or may be 50 years older.  And, in some cases, the living don’t want the dead returned to them!

This is such an unusual concept – although obviously not totally unique (see above confession!) – and it gives you such food for thought as you read which is something I really enjoy in a story.

The story focuses on one family.  Harold, his wife Lucille and their son Jacob.  Jacob has returned.  He drowned on his 8th birthday, 50 years ago.  Is Jacob really their son or is he something else?  Where has he been for the past 50 years and what can he remember?  Those questions of course make up a big element of the story and what keeps the intrigue and mystery at the forefront.  At least at the start.

Meanwhile, the returned are returning everywhere and are becoming a problem to say the least.  The Bureau, that was originally given the responsibility for returning the Returned, are quickly becoming overwhelmed and that forms the second part of the story.  Managing The Returned.  At first, people thought this was a miracle.  Loved ones were being returned.  But, as the story progresses more and more people are declining to see their former loved ones – their lives have moved on, they have new relationships and families.  And, of course, these newly Returned need to stay somewhere.  Basicially the small town of America which is being used to home them is quickly being overtaken as Returned from all over the world are being sent there to be housed (or imprisoned more to the point).  The numbers of course quickly swell until eventually the whole town is commandeered as a sort of refuge camp for this strange situation.  Basically, what on earth – or more precisely, where on earth – will all these people end up if they do keep returning?  The whole idea of space and resources quickly becomes an issue.

This then fuels the next part of the story – the people who are against the Returned and want them back where they belong!  Then the hysteria that runs along the back of that.  These people are taking resources.  They should be back where they belong.  They’re no longer a miracle but a burden.  They don’t have civil rights – they’re not really alive are they?

So, all of these things fuel the main story with Lucille, Harold and their returned son Jacob.

This is a poignant story, it reveals a lot.  It looks at people’s fears of the unknown and the way that civilisation is only really a rather thin veneer on the surface of things. Scratch the surface and people’s fears will fairly soon reveal the beast within.  It also looks at relationships and love and more to the point the ability to move on and let go.

What I particularly think works about this novel is that the author doesn’t try to go into explanations.  Sometimes the Returned appear and sometimes equally mysteriously they disappear again.  I think Lucille and Harold’s story teaches a little bit more about that after the climatic end of the novel and perhaps infers that the Returned are more to do with a person’s inability to let go.

Going into this read I was expecting something a little bit more chilling, or even horrific, and, indeed, at the start of the story, and much like some of the inhabitants of the story I did feel a certain paranoia about these returned/miracle people  I couldn’t help thinking that there was something more sinister about them.  They were easily identifiable as different, they were strangely compliant and they had a strange way of appearing very silently, and creepily in places.  At any given time I was expecting them to do something terrible.   And yet, really, looking back, this was all my imagination at work and therein lies the beauty.  If I could have such fears about these people, and I was just reading a book, then just imagine, really imagine, for one moment, how you would feel faced with the very real proposition.  Would you be able to embrace this person returned from the dead.  Would you be ecstatic?  Maybe at first, particularly if you were still in the throes of grief – but 50 years later??  When you’ve moved on.  Wouldn’t you wonder?

That, right there, is what for me makes this a good story.  The fact that I can look at it and think about the consequences if it really happened.  How would I feel.  Would I embrace this person, would I fear them.  Would their return allow me to live with them a short while and to finally come to the realisation that I could let them go?

I received a copy of this from the publishers via NetGalley.  The above is my own honest opinion.

I also read this as part of my RIP event over at Stainless Steel Droppings – you’re never too late to join in with this – well unless you pass the final date of course!  Check out the details here and join us all in our mega reading event!

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7 Responses to “The Returned by Jason Mott”

  1. Melinda

    I’ve seen many many reviews on this one, that I went and requested it on Netgalley. Sadly I was declined, so I wont be reading this one anytime soon. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      It’s quite a thought provoking book even though it’s not what I was initially expecting.
      Lynn 😀

  2. jessicabookworm

    My father watched and really enjoyed the recent TV series The Returned. I didn’t watch it myself but from what I heard I can see why you thought this book was something to do with it.

    • lynnsbooks

      I also watched it and thought it was really good. Such a similar concept and virtually the same name!
      Lynn 😀

  3. Shawn

    can someone explain who “the returned” are? Does Mott never answer that?

    • lynnsbooks

      To be honest Mott doesn’t answer any questions at all. I sort of like and dislike the approach – I like it because he doesn’t try to give an explanation, because we would probably all pick holes in his theory if he did. As it is, he just says the returned ‘are’. I dislike it because like you I’m burning to know what the hell is going on.
      Lynn 😀

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