Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

Posted September 26, 2013 by in Book Reviews / 16 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher / TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Returned by Jason MottThe Returned by Jason Mott
Published by Harlequin MIRA on August 27, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Source: the publisher / TLC Book Tours

Goodreads | Amazon

Fifty years ago, Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s son, Jacob, died on his eighth birthday. In the decades since, Harold and Lucille have gotten on with their lives and have learned to live without him. Though they still think of him and miss him from time to time, the pain of his loss has diminished and a strong marriage has held them together. As have their stubborn personalities.

Then one day, Jacob comes back to Arcadia, North Carolina. A knock on the Hargrave’s front door reveals a living, breathing, eight-year-old Jacob, accompanied by Agent Martin Bellamy of the International Bureau of the Returned.

And Jacob isn’t the only Returned. All over the world, people long dead are being given a second chance at life. No one knows why or how this is happening; some people claim the Returned are miracles, while others believe they are harbingers of the end of times. Not even Lucille and Harold can agree on who–or what–their son really is.

As more of the Returned show up in Arcadia, North Carolina–and in other places around the world–tensions rise and the arguments over what to do about the situation become more fierce.

Then, of course, spoilers happen. But not here. Heh.


I really enjoyed The Returned. This is Jason Mott’s debut novel and I think he nailed it. Looking over some of the reviews on Goodreads, there are people who felt The Returned was too similar to other books written on the subject (and maybe not as well done). But I had never read a book that dealt with people returning from the dead without being flesh-eating zombies. I’ve read a few books about apocalypse-style disappearances, but people returning? Nope. This was a new concept to me.

Jason Mott came up with the idea for The Returned after dreaming about having a conversation with his deceased mother. I’m sure we’ve all had this thought about a loved one who has died: What it would be like to be able to sit down and have a conversation with this person again? What would we talk about? How great would that feel? Since my Nonny died in 2001, there have been numerous times when I’ve wanted to call her on the phone and tell her something exciting, or ask for her opinion on something, or find out how she feels about some of the things going on in the world today…or just to say hi.

This is what The Returned is all about–what happens when loved ones start coming back from the dead? How does it make everyone involved feel? In what ways does it change people and the communities they live in?

It’s also about fear and prejudice. When something completely strange and unexplained like this happens, religion and close-mindedness are bound to come into the picture. Who wouldn’t be initially freaked out by a dead loved one knocking on their door and standing there looking like their death never happened?

Jason Mott does a fantastic job dealing with the different ways something like this would make people react, and his treatment of the characters is so heartfelt. The few places in The Returned where I felt the plot became a bit thin or rushed were entirely made up for by the way Mott wrote about the characters and their emotions. I felt this book: the love, the hate, the confusion, the happiness, the pain, the fear…all of it. It says something to me when an author can make me feel sympathy for a character whom I completely disagree with and despise. And Mott does this with straightforward, no-frills writing.

There are a lot of serious things to think about in The Returned: what it means to be human; the ways in which people are “othered” and how they’re treated for being different; how fear or love or other emotions can lead people to act in extreme ways; the idea of being careful what you wish for; and learning when to let go and move on. Mott ties all of these ideas into the story smoothly and naturally, and gives both sides equal treatment.

The Returned is a great debut novel, and I’d definitely read more from Jason Mott in the future. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy speculative fiction and/or to readers who enjoy books that give them all the feels.

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  • Sounds like an extraordinary book. I, for one, have never come across stories of people returning from the dead (unless you count The Others movie) as the living. May check this one out. Thanks for the great review.
    I think I saw this on Netgalley.

  • I’ve seen several reviews but the premise didn’t make me really want to read it. Yours, though, makes it sound less zombie-ish and more interesting in terms of community and reactions. I might have to check this out from the library, as this is not a typical type of read for me. Thanks for the review!

    • Yep, it had nothing to do with zombies. The book was really about human nature and the different ways people would handle something like this happening. Plus it was about forgiveness and redemption and all kinds of other stuff.

      You’re welcome!

  • Nice review. I liked this book too.

  • I just heard of this book the other day and I’m very intrigued by it. It sounds like a sort of companion novel to The Leftovers by Tom Perotta. It’s definitely on my wish list.

    • I thought of The Leftovers right away when I read the synopsis of this one, yes. Both books aren’t meant to deal with how and why those things happen, but how people deal with it.

      • Yes. I wasn’t that impressed with The Leftovers but I’m definitely willing to give this one a chance.

  • I loved the way Mott built his characters, too; heartfelt is a great way to describe them. My one problem with this book was that I was left with too many questions. I’m not one that needs all the answers, like how or why the Returned came back because if this really happened, we wouldn’t know. But there were a lot of questions that I felt could have been answered about the experiences of the Returned, and I really wanted to know more about them.

    • I wanted to know a bit more about the Returned themselves, too. Like did they remember anything about their deaths and the time in between that they weren’t telling the living?

      • Exactly! And how do they feel about being alive again but seeing how everyone around them has aged, changed, moved on?

  • Pingback: Jason Mott, author of The Returned, on tour September/October 2013 | TLC Book Tours()

  • Sounds like this story and these characters will really stick with readers long after they turn the last page!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  • Pingback: September Wrap-Up, October Plans | Between the Covers()

  • Ooh, this sounds interesting. I’m sure I’ve heard about a TV series with a similar storyline. There have to be so many different perspectives to look at this subject from.

    • Heather

      I’m pretty sure this book has nothing to do with the TV series, but I’ll bet it’s the same kind of idea. I don’t know for sure, though.