Review: The Returned

The Returned
The Returned by Jason Mott
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

There’s a weird trend going on here — so many stories about life after death for this girl who believes not in the afterlife: Love Minus Eighty, the World of the End, the 4400, and now, the Returned.

Not sure how many stars. This is a quiet, southern, small town story. People, long dead, are suddenly alive. They are not zombies. Some re-appear near where they lived. Some appear where they died. Some show up on the other side of the world, in countries where they cannot speak the language.

At first, the world’s governments help to bring them to their former homes. Some people embrace their returned loved ones, some shun them as unnatural or, even, of the devil. Eventually, they become the targets of terrified and xenophobic violence. In the United States, they are rounded up into holding prisons, very much like the Japanese-American internment camps of the 1940s.

Mott’s writing focuses on one specific small town, on one specific couple & their returned son, dead fifty years. The beginning is fascinating — Is he really their boy? Is he a copy, a shadow? Does it matter? What will it do to their marriage and their faith to return this boy to their daily lives?

The personal, religious, and political questions are raised, but not developed. Mott’s afterword speaks beautifully about remembering the freshness of grief and about self-forgiveness. The overwhelming message of the actual story in the book is that humans are crud — We imprison what we don’t understand. We murder the strangers among us because we do not want them near, though they are near because we force them to be. We turn against our lifelong neighbors, with violence, because they hold beliefs different from our own.

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