Book Review: “The Returned” by Jason Mott

I found out about this book in a roundabout way. I was reading an article about which TV shows might be canceled in the fall and was dismayed to see that Resurrection was on the list. The author happened to mention that Resurrection was based on a novel titled The Returned, and as soon as I saw that, I knew I had to track it down.

The Returned was slightly smaller in scope than its television counterpart, focusing primarily on the dynamic in the Hargrave (Langston) family after their son Jacob came back from the dead (unlike Resurrection, wherein Jacob was the first to Return, the whole people-coming-back-from-the-dead situation was already in full swing when Agent Bellamy took Jacob back to his family). Harold (Henry) and Lucille actually flip-flopped their positions; before Jacob was back, Lucille was convinced the Returned were demons while Harold placidly insisted they were just ordinary people, but after Jacob’s return, Lucille was the one insisting there was nothing wrong with the Returned, and Harold was the one nursing doubts. He still loved Jacob and treated him like the real thing, even going so far as to stay with Jacob in a government-run Returned camp.

Although the Hargraves were the primary focus on the book, there were also some brief chapters dedicated to other Returned, the most notable being the Wilson family. They were all murdered in their house many years ago, and no one in Arcadia ever figured out the murderer’s identity. The community was very shaken up over the murder, and they were downright hostile when the Wilsons Returned, visible reminders that their peaceful little town had been home to a horrific crime.

There were some noticeable differences between the TV show and the book that I think are worth highlighting. I’ve already covered some of the name changes, but there were other things, too:

  • In the book, Fred is not Harold/Henry’s brother. In fact, he’s not even the sheriff.
  • Fred’s wife Mary (Barbara) did not die on the same day as Jacob.
  • The circumstances of Jacob’s death are different. In the show, he drowned while trying to save his Aunt Barbara. In the book, he just drowned while playing by the river–on his birthday, no less.
  • Fred and Mary/Barbara did not have a daughter, so Maggie doesn’t exist.
  • Harold/Henry’s mother Margaret does not Return.
  • Although Elizabeth (Rachel) is still the pastor’s dead girlfriend, she was younger when she died (and so younger when she Returned) and most certainly not pregnant. So if anyone out there was hoping for an answer to the whole “Is Rachel’s baby evil” question, it doesn’t even exist here.
  • Although there is an illness that a few of the Returned catch, it does not make them disappear as it does in the show.

Interestingly, the book never gives a definite answer as to what the Returned really are. The author states that he wrote it this way on purpose; he wanted his readers to decide for themselves. And in the end, does it really matter what the Returned are? They exist; they cannot be denied, and they give their loved ones a last chance to spend time with them.

The Returned is very expressively written and is one of those books that makes you think. It has a little bit of everything in it–some thriller, some romance, some mystery, some supernatural–and, therefore, can appeal to a wider audience than if it had limited itself to one genre. And it’s a good way to get your Resurrection fix until we know if/when the show is coming back.

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One response to “Book Review: “The Returned” by Jason Mott

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday, My Turn to Talk! | My Turn to Talk

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