The Returned by Jason Mott

The Returned by Jason Mott

the returned

I learned about this book from a review on Bull Spec’s blog page.  I was excited to find out about it because Jason Mott is a local author who made it big. The Returned is being developed into a series by ABC, called Resurrection.  I hope they do a better job with it than CBS did with Under the Dome. I see they had to call it “Resurrection” because there already was a French series called “The Returned,” that has a similar premise.

In reading the jacket cover, I saw that Mott is an MFA of poetry with two published poetry collections. I was afraid this book might therefore be hyper literary like Zone One by Colson Whitehead, or The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. But if I had really thought about it, then I might have realized ABC isn’t going to make a television series based on a hyper-literary book.

And it’s not. It’s comfortably prosaic. And for anyone who has ever dealt with the grief of losing a loved one, this book is also probably cathartic. It was for Mott, who says in the notes at the end of the book that this story came to life, partially in response to his dealing with the pain of losing his mother.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads: 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.


And now here is the trailer for the TV show:

I can already tell there are some changes from the book, but hopefully they are subtle. The thing that I liked most about the book was its subtlety.  Mott poses this scenario as a setting against which he positions some very simple but significant social and moral questions. He’s not overly interested in solving the mysteries of the phenomenon, but uses the uncertainty surrounding the miracle to enhance the themes: the opposing aspects of human nature – grace and cruelty.

It’s really a simple story, clear and unobstructed by complicated language or puffed up ideas. It’s like a good, unpretentious meal that is filling and satisfies, but all the ingredients are easily recognizable. It’s not French cuisine, but more like your grandma’s fried chicken and mashed potatoes. It won’t take you long to finish it, but when you’re done, you’re going to want to sit and let it digest for a while.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: December newsletter: The fourth annual Bull Spec guide to Carolinas science fiction and fantasy, ahead of the first annual regional author holiday book expo this Saturday! | Bull Spec

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