The Returned

Author: Jason Mott

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Release Date: August 27, 2013

Blue Ribbon Rating: 4


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An emotional journey, THE RETURNED makes you question everything you believe in and ask the unavoidable, what if that happened to me?  What if the son you buried after he died at eight-years-old is returned to you fifty years later, alive and well, but still only eight-years-old?  Would you believe it?  How would you be able to tell that it's him?  Is it a sign from God, or the beginning of the end?

Lucille and Harold Hargrave suffered a great loss and endured the following years with trepidation, sometimes only existing with the knowledge that their lives will never be the same.  On their son's eighth birthday, he disappeared.  After a thorough search ensued, Harold found him drowned in the river and he couldn't be revived.

Fifty years later, a man shows up at the Hargrave's door with a boy who the man claims is their son.  It's happening all over the world, this phenomenon of the once dead turning up alive, looking and acting just like the day they died.  They've even created a "Bureau" of people in charge of delivering the Returned to where they belong.  Lucille and Harold discussed this before it happened, knowing that it was happening to others, wondering what they'd do if their son, Jacob, was one of the Returned.  They can't believe that the Returned are real, watching it unfold on television, but facing one of their own is an entirely different situation.  What's even worse is the question that has to be asked... do they want to keep him?

Harold developed a sarcastic and pessimistic look at life, while Lucille found religion to help her cope with the loss of their son.  They lived together but their way of getting along can be best described as cantankerous and argumentative, as well as comical when they spout off at one another.  Do they love one another?  Only time will tell because if you haven't guessed already, love is very much a part of learning to accept their son as one of the Returned.

Agent Bellamy, from the International Bureau of the Returned, interviews the entire family throughout their transition, hoping to make sense of it all himself.  The government doesn't really know what to do about this phenomenon and they need to be prepared for what's to come.  But, can any of them really be prepared when bias and basic human rights enter into the equation?

I really enjoyed the characters in this novel.  Each one was believable and resembled someone whom you might know as a neighbor, if you've ever lived in a small town.  I found Lucille and Harold especially likeable, even when they were at their worst, because they evolve as the story develops into something deeper and thought-provoking.  Even with such depth, there is laughter from characters who have spent a lifetime getting to know one another.

THE RETURNED is one of the most unique plots to come out of the zombie crazed storylines created for our fascination with the undead.  That this story is to be created for television under the title of RESURRECTION, coming to the ABC Network in March 2014, is no surprise to me.  As far away from zombies as it can get, THE RETURNED still begs for an answer to the question of "what are they?" within a novel that makes your mind spin with possibilities.

So emotionally gripping that I still tear up thinking about it, written with a flair for nostalgic southern small towns in the clutch of a crisis the world has never experienced, THE RETURNED looks at life within an entirely different perspective.  There is love, hate and unforgivable persecution, mixed in with laughter and family values in a world turned up on end.  Expect the unexpected as this isn't a romance novel, but a superb contemporary fictional love affair with life and all its unpredictable nuances.  You might just end up with more questions than answers and be spiritually altered by the journey, if you dare to try something as different as THE RETURNED.  I know I will keep a close eye on author Jason Mott and what he comes up with next, because he has the keen talent of making me wonder "what if".

By Romance Junkies Reviewer: Dorine Linnen

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