Reviewed by Chris Holobek
The returned return on page 1, and just like Jason Mott’s most recent bestseller, The Wonder of All Things, the story begins immediately. The Hargraves, an older couple in their 70’s, experience a life-altering event in the form of a young boy who has returned from the dead, at the same age he was when he died. I haven’t spoiled the story, as all of this happens within the first few pages of The Returned. This is not a book about zombies returning to North Carolina; the returned return just as “healthy” as when they departed. As more people “return” to present day, events in this small town take on fearsome actions, reminding this reader of internment camps, concentration camps, and general unrest when something uncomfortable and unexplainable happens. There were a couple of times my eyes got wet, and I wished I had the opportunity to have my father and grandparents return.
There is never an explanation for why these people return, or why only some people seem to return, or why some of them show up in unusual places; for me, this wasn’t important – I was caught up in the story of the Hargraves and the town of Arcadia. Background information about characters is provided in reflective chapters following each chapter; I thought this a brilliant way of delivering information and moving the story forward. The writing is almost poetic; the denseness of the novel has a very direct and meaningful approach with very little extraneous writing.
The Returned quickly became one of my favorite books from this summer, and I have shared it with many friends and family members. I look forward to more novels from Jason Mott and would like to delve into his poetry.
Chris Holobek is a Grade 4 Reading and Math teacher at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, IN