Beautifully written and compelling

The Returned

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My biggest regret? Not being able to say goodbye to my father before he passed away.

It all happened so quickly. One minute he was going to be okay and I needn’t have to rush to the hospital and the next it didn’t look like he’d make it home. He died while I was stuck on Highway Seven in rush hour traffic, just as I went through an underpass. I know because I had a feeling and I checked the time. When I got to the hospital I learned his time of death was within minutes of my “feeling.”

My second biggest regret? Not going with my mother to visit my grandmother in the convalescent home in the days before she died because it was boring.

I’ve often thought in the twelve years since my dad died and the thirty-five years or so since my grandmother died that I’d like to have that one last chance to say goodbye.

This is the exact sentiment Jason Mott explores in his novel The Returned.

In The Returned, eight year old Jacob returns to his parents, Lucille and Harold, almost fifty years after his death by drowning in the river behind their house. Lucille welcomes him with open arms. Harold is suspicious of his son’s return as he is of all those who have returned without explanation and seemingly without purpose. When the government begins arresting the returned and warehousing them in internment camps, Harold accompanies his son, grows closer to him, and discovers a kinship with those who have returned, as well as with their families.

Part “In the Flesh” (minus the zombies), part “The 4400”, The Returned is a beautifully written and compelling read, so long as you have willing suspension of disbelief enough to forget about why the dead have returned and simply accept the fact that they have. The overall theme of the book illustrates patterns in history, and that we are doomed to repeat ourselves. Case in point, warehousing millions of Jews in concentration camps during World War II and the establishment of Japanese internment camps later in the century. The comparison with these events in the novel is interesting but heavy handed at times, like when a Jewish couple attempts to hide a handful of returned German soldiers on their property. The soldiers are portrayed as innocents, caught up in something in which they have no say, acting as society demands of them, until they are taken outside and shot for their compliance in the war.

The Returned is being made into an American television series called “Resurrection” (the trailer is available on YouTube and it looks amazing), but given the track record of similar series, I don’t know how successful it will be. I know I’ll be watching it, for no other reason than I like the honesty and emotion of the novel and the ultimate message, how society treats “the other” with a combination of demonization and/or segregation and how one man, Harold, grows to overcome his prejudice of “the other” and learns no matter our stories of origin, we are all just people; we are all the same.

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