The dead are coming back to life. Not as zombies or ghosts or any other form of ‘undead’ supernatural creatures, but as themselves, just as they were when they left their mortal coil. It is an interesting concept. As much as we miss those who have passed away, and as hard as it is to come to grips with someone leaving our lives so permanently, we do come to terms with it. A ‘returned’ then is an interruption. It is an unnatural, often un-welcomed reminder of what was missed.
Take, for example, Harold and Lucille Hargrave in this book. Their son died at age eight in 1966. Now they are in their golden years when Jacob returns, still eight, on their doorstep. All over the world similar stories are suddenly happening. The obvious questions are: are they real? Are these really the same individuals, returned for some inexplicable, miraculous reason? And of course “How”” and “Why?”
But author Jason Mott’s book is not about the fantasy aspects of the dead returned to life, but about individuals and their reactions to such an unexpected phenomenon. From the individual, moralistic (sometimes religious, sometimes not) point of view to the political, governmental approach to dealing with the unexpected.
It is, as I write, an interesting concept and attempt to explore, and it doesn’t bother me at all that we don’t get solid answers to the obvious questions. But for an experiment of this sort to really work we need to sympathize with someone. We need to buy in to the shock and the fear of the unknown or the lack of understanding of the characters filling the book. And we don’t.
Mott keeps the reader at bay – allowing us to observe but not to feel along with the central characters. This is surprising, given that Mott is a celebrated poet and poetry is all about the feelings. But the sparseness of language in poetry that evokes images and mood, doesn’t do the same thing for character and even the Goodreads description of the book mentions “spare, eloquent prose.”
The emotion does come through near the end of the book, and I was truly moved by what was happening, but it was a little too late to have me actually caring. The ending would have served better earlier in the book as a catalyst to character action.
Looking for a good book? The Returned by Jason Mott has an interesting sci-fi concept but there’s too little character development, coming too late, to make it a worthwhile read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Jason Mott
series: The Returned #1
publisher: Harlequin MIRA
hardcover, 338 pages