The Returned by Jason Mott

Title: The Returned
Author: Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Expected Release: August 27, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)

Synopsis (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.

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.

What a great premise for a novel! I was excited to read The Returned. The writing was good and held my interest. It was fascinating to see how different people reacted to the phenomena, to consider how the government would intervene, and I wondered what would happen next.

However, between the Hargraves and Pastor Peters, the author almost seems to be mocking the South (especially Christians in the South). I believe the intent was character development, but the execution felt unnatural, stereotypical, and at times, completely over the top and borderline rude. It was like I was catching a glimpse of the author’s own hangups, rather than gaining a better understanding of the characters.

Also, without spoiling any details, there were some ideas that were stated but didn’t develop, which could have enriched the sci-fi elements of the premise. This fall, ABC will be airing a series called Resurrection, which is based on this book and has an amazing cast. Yep, this book which hasn’t even been released yet already has a TV series. I’m hoping ABC will give us more of the sci-fi aspects.

So, I was left with mixed feelings about The Returned. I liked it. For the most part, I enjoyed the  book as I was reading. But I wasn’t left feeling satisfied at the end, and I never felt especially connected to the characters. I think I may be looking forward to the television series more…

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.