Review: The Returned (The Returned #1) ~ Jason Mott

ReturnedJacob 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.

2 Thumbs-UpWhat could present a better storyline than this, people who have actually experienced whether or not there is something beyond death?  From a first glance at the title the reader may be mistaken in thinking that this is the usual undead meal served on a different plate, but they would be wrong.  This Author took a different angle to this now well-worn and tired out old scenario, and then failed to bring it to its full glory.

What could have been a novel full of intriguing characters and an even better storyline that would have kept me turning pages was instead, a novel full of characters I really couldn’t care less about and a plot that left me with more questions than answers.  The main protagonists in this novel are almost mechanical like in their personalities and nature, but rather than making the reader wonder what about their current situation makes them this way they are left feeling they are reading about flat one-dimensional non people.  Even the main “returned” character is boring, and that was the biggest disappointment for me in this novel; instead of filling him with insight and revelations on what lay beyond, the Author took the complete opposite tack and had this character say nothing at all about death and the afterlife.

The plot line moves along at a slow and plodding pace and, even though I don’t expect everything I read to be fast-paced and full of action, in a book with this topic as the plot I was expecting places that would make me think and wonder; and not about whether I would make it to the end or not.  The redeeming factor for me that kept me going to the end was the interspersing of stories told of the other “returned”.  These snippets gave more of an insight into the effect of their coming back, not only on their families but on society as a whole.  They were moving and emotional, and from an interest point of view knocked the socks off the main plot line.  In my opinion, after reading this and seeing how well the Author tackled the shorts, I feel they would fare better by writing short stories than attempting to breathe life into a series that hasn’t even made it out of the gates for this reader.  I doubt I will be reading any of the subsequent books.

I will recommend this book to a certain reader who may enjoy this, but I’m not entirely sure who that reader would be as I felt I definitely was not in the targeted audience.