The Returned by Jason Mott
(Harlequin MIRA, 2013, 352 pages)
Harold and Lucille Hargrove live on the outskirts of a small town in North Carolina called Arcadia. They’re in their 70s and have been married for decades. The couple survived their 8 year old son who died in 1966. While they never really got over his death, they managed to move forward with their lives as best they could. Harold and Lucille have been following the news lately which has described a phenomenon no one can really get a good grasp on. It appears that people are returning from the dead. Not in the zombie-sense, just in the sense of reappearing as they had been prior to their death. Then there’s a knock on the door and their son Jacob is being returned to them by an agent of the International Bureau of the Returned. Not only does this change their lives, but the numbers of Returned individuals are such that there are concerns that there won’t be enough room for all of them – lives are being changed worldwide. People don’t know what to do or how to treat them. They’re people’s loved ones… but are they human?
Arcadia is slowly transformed into something of a holding center for the Returned and every day busloads of them are brought in. We experience the reality of the situation and the tension that gradually builds through the lens of the Hargroves’ experiences in addition to first-hand accounts from Returned individuals.
The Returned is a unique read and it definitely makes you think. You want to kind of figure out where the author is trying to take you as a reader along with where the story is going. It turns out this book is potentially going to be made into a TV series which I could see catching people’s attention. It’s a mystery with a little suspense mixed in but really it focuses on coping with loss and how people move forward when they lose those they care about.