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{August 22, 2013}   {ARC Review} The Returned by Jason Mott

17182421From Goodreads: 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.

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I really wanted to like this novel, but it’s rather depressing and, truth be told, I never really made a connection with the characters.  This is a very finely written piece, don’t get me wrong, but my questions were never answered. Why the returned come, what their purpose is, where they go when they disappear… I just don’t know, and that was the main reason I picked up this novel; I wanted to know.

Instead, this novel focuses on the appearance of the dead (not zombies, mind you), and how the world decides to react to such an anomaly.  However, no one has answers, so it’s more or less the blind leading the blind, with some embracing the dead, some detesting it, and others ready to lock them up forever.  Like I said, it’s a very depressing tale. We learn how the government decides to handle it, which isn’t very well, more like the Japanese Internment Camps than anything else, and we get to know characters… only to watch them traverse terrible atrocities and, ultimately, die.  But why they emerged from the earth again, and what their purpose was aside from driving the story, well, I don’t know.

What I did enjoy about the novel, though, was that the chapters break up to follow certain characters, even though it’s told in third person, and we meet new returned and hear their brief stories.  But again, it is all very tragic, and truthfully, I felt somewhat awful upon finishing it; angry with humanity.  But maybe that was the purpose?  People can turn evil, which is shown in this novel in very real sense, and while there are some good people interspersed, I really came out of this with a depressed soul and a feeling of disillusionment with humankind.

Overall, it’s very well written, but such a depressing tale isn’t really my speed. I guess I was hoping for mystery and danger, a sense of horror or something, but that’s not what this novel is about, and it just wasn’t for me. Two stars.

2 stars

Harlequin has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on August 27, 2013.

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