22 August 2013

Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

The Returned (The Returned #1) by Jason Mott

Expected Publication: 27 August 2013 by Harlequin MIRA

Pages: 352 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Fantasy

Source: Publisher for review


Harold and Lucille Hargrave's lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they've settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time…. Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old. 

All over the world people's loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it's a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he's their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human. 

My Thoughts

Reading the synopsis of The Returned, you could be tempted to call this a zombie novel.  After all, people returning from the dead are the essence of zombies, but even if there is that similarity, The Returned is definitely not what I would call a zombie story - and I'm completely OK with that.

Instead, The Returned is more of a study of humanity - biases and bigotry, but also love, memory and connection.  The central characters, Harold and Lucille, aren't easy to get to know, but they are intensely familiar because they are so ordinary and could be anyones parents, grandparents or neighbours.  When their son, Jacob, returns after dying nearly 40 years ago, Harold and Lucille have very different reactions but welcome their son back into their lives as if no time has passed at all.

And although neither of them are particularly unique, as characters they are easy to like and to understand.  Their actions and reactions feel right, and match their personalities and beliefs, and because they are so ordinary they are easy to relate to (as much as you can relate to someone whose son has come back from the dead).

There are also flashes of what happens to other 'returned' and their experiences on re-entering the world, and I found these infinitely fascinating, although at times confusing and they did seem to become less and less as the book progressed.

The plot is actually fairly slow-moving, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there were times when my attention started to waiver - I enjoyed getting to know the characters and the situation in their town intimately but there were occaisonal lulls which I found difficult to adapt to.  There are also a lot of unexplained plot lines, things that seem to just fade into the distance and I was left with quite a few unanswered questions, however there are some prequels being released shortly which should hopefully give a little more insight into the world.

What The Returned does do exceedingly well is raise a lot of moral and ethical questions - how would you react if someone you loved came back from the dead?  Many of the characters in The Returned find that their reactions are not exactly what they would have expected, or that their reactions cement the type of person they are deep down, and also made me question what my own reaction would have been.

As a debut, The Returned is impressively written, moving and intricate, and I'm excited to read more of Jason Mott's work in the future.


  1. I've read some really positive reviews for this book and I'm glad to hear you also liked it. Seems to be quite an unusual kind of book, so I'll probably give it a chance!

    1. It's really unique, I think that is why I enjoyed it as much as I did. And the moral questions are quite mind-boggling.

  2. I almost Pre-Ordered this on Audiobook yesterday but instead went with something else. I do have the prequels though and I plan to read them soon. As I've said many times before this book reminds me of the French Film Les Revenants. It had a similar premise and as you mentioned in your review raised a lot of moral and ethical questions. I do hope to read this at some point and since yours is the first review I've seen I have at least some confidence that it will be worth my time.

    1. I have one of the prequels which I'm interested in reading soon - it's such a unique book, and although it was a bit 'slow', it was really interesting to see how the characters reacted to each situation differently.

  3. I got a review copy in the mail from the publisher last week. I can't wait to read it. Great review Kat!

  4. The premise really reminds me of a cross between Stephen King's "Pet Cemetery" and "Breathers: A Zombie's Lament" by S.G. Browne in that they both involve the dead coming back to life. Okay, not just that! Each of those books looks at the consequences of the dead returning, albeit in very different ways. If I'm being honest, the concept is really creepy although very interesting and worth taking a serious look at.

    1. Breathers! I still need to read that one!

      This one really got me thinking - and the more I thought about it, the more creeped out I got!

  5. This book looks SO interesting. This isn't the first time I've seen it pop up and I'm sure it won't be the last. I'm really curious about it.

    1. It's really thought-provoking. In a creepy kinda way ;)

  6. Yay, you liked it as well! The plot was very slow, but I loved the imagination in it. This book got me in the feels not so much for the characters but imagining the situations.

    How did you feel about the end? How they dealt with the Returned? I was not well pleased.



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