The Returned by jason mott

the returnedIt’s strange, I picked up this book for several reasons-it’s a debut novel, it has garnered rave reviews and it sounded like an apocalyptic zombie book about people returning from the dead and while people do return from the dead this book this couldn’t be further from a zombie book if it tried.  This was one of the most thought provoking, intense books I have read in a long time.

As the book begins, little Jacob Hargrave arrives on his parents’ doorstep in Arcadia, N.C. 50 years after he drowned in a river.  His parents, Harold and Lucille have very different views of Jacob’s return to their family.  Harold, the one that found Jacob that summer day 50 years ago, drowned, wants to believe that the boy that has returned is Jacob, but in his heart he doesn’t feel that the boy that has returned is the same boy that died.  There is something missing.  Lucille,  a lifetime churchgoer, who prior to Jacob’s returned thought the Returned were somehow devil’s work,  believes that Jacob is a miracle sent  by God.  Harold and Lucille’s difficulties in accepting Jacob’s return is just a small ripple symbolic of much larger waves that the Returned are causing  within the community and society as well.  Some people are welcoming them and others are not.   The government creates a new department , the International Bureau of the Returned, that in the beginning is supposed to help facilitate reintegration of the Returned in society.  However, as the numbers of the Returned grow,  the military is brought in to “keep order”.  Soon, there is a anti-Returned movement called the “living movement”.

Throughout the main storyline, that of Lucille, Harold and Jacob, – the author recounts various “Returneds” experiences.  Each experience is unique and it is through these experiences that Mott explores issues of religion, civil rights, war and tolerance. As the characters wrestle with these issues so do you.  What would you do?  What makes us human?  So, this may be a book about dead people, but I have never thought so much about life and living before when I read a book.  This book will challenge you and that’s not a bad thing-is it?

The Falmouth Memorial Library owns a copy of this book.