Monday, September 9, 2013


Pages: 352
Date: 09/09/2013
Grade: 5
Details: Received from Harlequin
            Through NetGalley
Own / Kindle

The Blurb:

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."


Every so often you find a book that makes you stop and think. You find yourself wondering “what if” and “what would I do”. And, if the book is really good, it doesn’t give you clear cut answers as to what would be right or wrong. Instead it gives you the opportunity to look deep inside yourself and try to figure out where you would stand if you found yourself in that particular situation.

This was such a wonderful book for me.

From the moment people who have been dead for years, if not decades, start returning to life, looking exactly as they did when they died and with only the wish to be reunited with the loved ones they left behind, the world is divided about what it means and how to react to it.

There are those who think it is a wonderful miracle. And then there are those who think it is a sure sign that the end of days have arrived. And some, like Lucille Hargrave are convinced it is a sign of doom to come right up to the moment they themselves are reunited with a dear one they have lost.

But, while it may be wonderful for most people to have the opportunity to spend more time with lost loved-ones, it is only a matter of time before there are so many Returned that housing and feeding them becomes an issue. There is an official Bureau put in charge of dealing with the Returned. While initially it’s task is to make sure that the Returned are reunited with their families and trying to find out what is going on and how it is happening, the focus shifts as the numbers of Returned increase. Soon the Bureau’s job has been reduced to one of containment, and the Returned are taken from their families and put in camps. With the Bureau getting increasingly inflexible, the wider population being scared about this phenomenon they don’t understand and those reunited with those they thought they’d never see again desperate to not lose them again, this is a situation heading towards an explosive finale.

There is an awful lot to be impressed with in this book. First of all, there is the way in which this book is written; thoughtful, in sparse language and with obvious love for the characters in the story. It would have been so easy to turn this story idea in to a high octane, thrill a minute sort of thriller. Jason Mott didn’t go that way though. Instead he tells his story, in which violence does occur, in a subdued and calm way. His characters are equally memorable, especially since they appear so very unremarkable. They aren’t super-humans trying to save the world; they are people like you and me, attempting to keep their lives from imploding while hanging on to those they love. In fact, Harold and Lucille are quite unlikely heroes. In their twilight years, neither of them expected to have to make the decisions and choices they are faced with in this book. But when they’re up against it they follow their hearts and do the only thing they believe to be right.

This book doesn’t concern itself with the how and why of the phenomena it has introduced. We don’t find out how it is possible that the dead return, or why it is happening. What we do get is a picture of what happens to the world, and those who live there, when endless amounts of deceased people suddenly re-appear. And this is done very well. The slow progression from wonder to worry from fear to panic to finally arrive at full on paranoia is as well delivered as it is realistic and frightening. People changing from friendly neighbours into lethal enemies. Peace-loving individuals suddenly contemplating violence it is all too easy to see how the situation would turn out that way.

This book throws up interesting questions. How would you deal with the return of a loved one who has been dead for years; would you just be happy and welcome them back into your life and home or would it scare you? How would the world deal with all the extra people that suddenly need to be housed and fed? How would the people whose loved ones didn’t return deal with what could be experienced as rejection? And how long would it be until the whole world descended into chaos?

And I like that the book doesn’t try to give answers to these questions. By setting the story in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere and almost exclusively dealing with the reactions of the people who live there and are brought there, the author gives us an environment in which world-wide dynamics are being played out on a small scale. For the reader this means that it is easier to understand all sides of the story, although that doesn’t mean they agree with all the different conclusions people come to.

This is a wonderful book about love, and the things we’re prepared to do because of it. This is a book about faith, and what it means when the realities of life no longer fit in with what you have believed in for all of your life. This is a story about being true to your beliefs and your feelings. It is both uplifting and heartbreaking. This is a story that will stay with me for a very long time.

“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. And maybe that was the way it was supposed to be (…)”

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