Loved ones are returning from beyond and no one is sure whether this is a miracle or a sign of the impending apocalypse. This book ultimately addresses questions of grief, death and what constitutes life.
I was incredibly interested in the premise of this book and how Mott would execute it. I did find it very slow to get into it but I am very glad I persisted. The story follows Harold and Lucille Hargrave and their responses to their eight-year-old son’s return from the grave.
For me, it wasn’t really the Hargrave’s timeline that captured my attention – although I did love that the hero was a woman in her seventies. Instead I much preferred the interludes after every chapter featuring stories of Returned from all corners of the globe. It was a fantastic insight into how people react to the unknown.
The book is set in a small US town, which is used as a camp for the Returned while the government decides how to react to their presence. It was effective in exploring how humans react to the unknown as the atmosphere grows increasingly oppressive due to fear and confusion.
The ‘villain’ of the story was an ordinary man, Fred Green, whose dead wife was not among the Returned. It was a really interesting portrayal of the lengths people will go to because of jealousy and grief. Although he is not a likeable character, he is definitely sympathetic.
This book stays with you long after you have turned the last page. It raises pertinent questions about grief and letting go of the ones you loved. And ultimately makes you question: what would I do if I could see them again?
Although it is a bit slow, this book and its themes are beautiful. I recommend it very highly.
The Returned has been adapted into a TV series, to be released in March. It doesn’t appear to stay true to the novel but is based on the same premise. Watch the trailer: