What would you do if suddenly one of your loved ones who had died 10, 20 or even 50 years ago stood at your door alive and well? That’s the premise of The Returned, the debut novel by Jason Mott.
In 1966, Lucille and Harold Hargrave lost their only son Jacob on his eighth birthday when he drowned in a lake not far from where his party had taken place. Harold and friends set off to find Jacob and Harold carried Jacob's limp, dead body out of the lake. Fifty years later, an eight-year-old Jacob appears at their door with an agent of the International Bureau of the Returned, the agency handling those who have been recently returning from the dead.
Lucille and Harold have learned to live their lives after losing Jacob. They obviously missed seeing their son grow-up, and their lives were not the same without him. They are fifty years older and must learn to be parents again to a young boy.
Lucille writes in a note to Harold, "I don't know how this child, this second Jacob, came to be. But honestly, I don't care. He's given us something we never thought we could have again: a chance to remember what love is... A chance to love without fear."
As the numbers of the Returned increase, people obviously have strong reactions to the Returned and some are strongly in favor of helping them return to their families and loved ones, while others consider themselves part of the True Living Movement, standing up for the rights of the Living.
The world begins to devolve into chaos, causing families to search for the strength to stay together through love and faith.
As I read this book, I thought a lot about the family members that have passed away whose voices I can still hear, who are missed at family gatherings, especially during holidays. I've considered what my reaction would be and I begin to wonder how long would they be here? Would their memories still be intact, would they have information about an afterlife, if there is one? Would they know what has been going on in our lives while they have been gone, when there have been times that their presence has been felt on occasion?
This is an unforgettable book about what it takes to keep a family together against all odds. Faith, love, responsibility and morality all play a strong role in what keeps families together. Mott explores what happens when people return while also exploring how people deal with the fact that other loved ones didn't return. Lucille's faith is tested but the book is not preachy or religious in any way. This is illustrated with one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Some folks locked the doors of their hearts when they lost someone. Others kept the doors and the windows open, letting memory and love pass through freely."
The author's notes states that the idea for the book came after having a dream where he sat down and spoke with his deceased mother about current things happening in his life. We've all wondered what we would say or do if we had one more moment with a loved one we've lost. Lucille and Harold had more time with their son. What would you do if you had one more day or even one more hour?
The book has been optioned for a series on ABC, retitled as The Resurrection debuting March 2014.
Quotes from the book are from an Advance Reader Copy and may be subject to change.
About the Author
Erica Voell is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.