Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Release Review: The Returned, by Jason Mott (recommended)

Goodreads Summary:

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That's what all the Returned were.

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.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

***

Two things I loved about The Returned:

1. THE MAGICAL REALISM. One difference between magic realism and fantasy is the sense of ambiguity that comes with the former. There are no explanations, nor rules, for supernatural phenomena. This book never explains why some people come back and why others don't. It never explains whether the Returned are truly people or merely shadows of people. It never explains why some of the Returned die natural deaths while others vanish. It never explains why people are returning now, when they never had in the past. The sense of uncertainty that surrounds these events is what creates such a fascinating story. The uncertainty is what allows the reader to truly connect to the characters.

2. THE CHARACTERS. They felt real. Believable. Complicated. They are all people trapped under circumstances that no one knows how to interpret. They react to the events around them even though they don't always know how to react. They are all, in some way, trying to do the right thing--or at the very least, something.

The Returned is a beautifully-written, moving story. It's the sort of book that will appeal to a range of audiences, and I would recommend it to just about anyone.

***

The Returned is out today.

(Oh yeah, and ABC is adapting it into a television series called "Resurrection." The show premieres in March, and judging by the trailer and the character names, it appears to have very little in common with the book.)

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