Summary and book reviews of The Returned by Jason Mott

The Returned

by Jason Mott

The Returned
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2013, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2014, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Book Summary

In a spellbinding and stunning debut, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility.

"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.

One

HAROLD OPENED THE door that day to find a dark-skinned man in a well-cut suit smiling at him. At first he thought of reaching for his shotgun, but then he remembered that Lucille had made him sell it years ago on account of an incident involving a traveling preacher and an argument having to do with hunting dogs.

"Can I help you?" Harold said, squinting in the sunlight—light which only made the dark-skinned man in the suit look darker.

"Mr. Hargrave?" the man said.

"I suppose," Harold replied.

"Who is it, Harold?" Lucille called. She was in the living room being vexed by the television. The news announcer was talking about Edmund Blithe, the first of the Returned, and how his life had changed now that he was alive again.

"Better the second time around?" the announcer on the television asked, speaking directly into the camera, laying the burden of answering squarely on the shoulders of his viewers.

The wind rustled through the oak tree in the yard near the ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Returned's premise provides much food for thought, and it's a book that most readers will find themselves thinking about long after the last page is turned. That, combined with Mott's ability to bring his characters alive, makes this one well worth the reader's time.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Full Review Members Only (971 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his exceptional debut novel, poet Mott brings drama, pathos, joy, horror, and redemption to a riveting tale.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Poet and debut author Mott has written a breathtaking novel that navigates emotional minefields with realism and grace.

Library Journal

Starred Review. This is a masterly first novel for Mott, previously a published poet; it speaks to many aspects of the human condition through the Hargraves' experience, as well as short segments in the voices of returned people around the globe. Highly recommended for those who love a strong story that makes them think. It has already been optioned for television by Brad Pitt's production company.

Booklist

Starred Review. Mott brings a singularly eloquent voice to this elegiac novel, which not only fearlessly tackles larger questions about mortality but also insightfully captures life's simpler moments....A beautiful meditation on what it means to be human.

Author Blurb Eowyn Ivey, New York Times bestselling author of The Snow Child
A wondrous surprise. With fine craftsmanship and a deep understanding of the human condition, Jason Mott has woven a tale that is in turns tragic and humorous and terrifying. Surely this will spark many a fabulous book club discussion.

Author Blurb Aimee Bender, New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
A deft meditation on loss that plays out levels of consequence on both personal and international stages. Mott allows the magic of his story to unearth a full range of feelings about grief and connection.

Author Blurb Douglas Preston, bestselling author of The Monster of Florence
The Returned transforms a brilliant premise into an extraordinary and beautifully realized novel. My spine is still shivering from the memory of this haunting story. Wow.

Reader Reviews

Meredith k

Gone but not forgotten
This is definitely a "thinking" persons book. It brings faith,death and anarchy to the front lines. It makes you look at yourself and life in a new way. One of the best books I've read in a long time.

Diane S.

The Returned
This book is being heavily promoted and is now in production for a television series. It is a book that raises so many questions. The dead start appearing, (not a vampire or Zombie in the bunch, thank you Jason Mott) an eight year old boy who drowned...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Life After Death

In 2011 archeologists uncovered Neanderthal skeletons, dating back about 50,000 years, that appear to have been intentionally buried with the arms folded so the hands are close to the head. This evidence, which shows respect for the dead, has led some to extrapolate that the Neanderthals had a sense of an afterlife. Scientifically speaking, however, it is a stretch to make the case based on just this one piece of data. What we do know is that the early agricultural societies that started to develop from 10,000 BC tended to have organized religions, and around 2500 BC the Egyptians believed in an afterlife, but only for the Pharaoh. Within a couple of centuries the Egyptian nobels were included in the afterlife, and by 2100 BC belief in the...

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