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The Returnedby Jason Mott
Jason Mott, haunted by the death of his parents and his self-acknowledged inadequate response to those deaths, tries to reconcile his feelings in The Returned. In the small town of Arcadia — the irony of that name is perfect — dead people are suddenly alive again, just as if their lives started back up again at the moment of their death. Harold and Lucille open their front door to find their eight-year-old son — who died in 1966 — alive and well again. In fact, people all around the world are discovering the same thing. Before long there are so many of "the returned" that the government deems them a threat and forces them into "internment" camps.
Mott asks more questions than he could possibly answer: Why are they coming back? Are they alive? Are they real? Are they the same people they were before? Are they a miracle or a curse? What do they remember about death? What would I do to have my loved one back? With a nod to "The Monkey's Paw" by Poe, possibly the most important question Mott asks is: Do I still want them?
Mott has an MFA in poetry and that fact shines through brightly here. Carefully written in precise, clear prose, Mott delivers a profound debut novel that will make you think.
Synopses & Reviews
"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.
With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.
"In his exceptional debut novel, poet Mott brings drama, pathos, joy, horror, and redemption to a riveting tale of how the contemporary world handles the inexplicable reappearance of the dead. The primary focus is on Harold and Lucille Hargrave, who lost their son, Jacob, half a century ago in a tragic drowning accident on his eighth birthday. Amid global rumors about 'the Returned,' their son arrives at their doorstep — with an agent from the International Bureau of the Returned — still eight and healthy, as if nothing has changed in more than 50 years. Locals have mixed feelings when Arcadia, their small, backwater Southern town, is inundated with soldiers and taken over as a refuge for the multitude of Returned who have nowhere else to go (not every family wants them back), and Mott ratchets up the tension. Are the Returned walking, breathing miracles? Or signs of the Devil and 'the end of times'? Even local Pastor Robert Peters cannot decide how to respond to these people, haunted as he is by the sudden reappearance of the love of his life, a girl who died as a teen. When some of the disgruntled locals take matters into their own hands, there is an apocalypse of sorts and both the frailty and strength of human character become evident; Mott brings depth and poignancy to the Returned and their purpose for existing. Agent: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Returned transforms a brilliant premise into an extraordinary and beautifully realized novel. My spine is still shivering from the memory of this haunting story. Wow." Douglas Preston, #1 bestselling author of The Monster of Florence
"A wondrous surprise. With fine craftsmanship and a deep understanding of the human condition, Jason Mott has woven a tale that is in turns tragic and humorous and terrifying. Surely this will spark many a fabulous book club discussion." Eowyn Ivey, New York Times bestselling author of The Snow Child
"A deft meditation on loss that plays out levels of consequence on both personal and international stages. Mott allows the magic of his story to unearth a full range of feelings about grief and connection." Aimee Bender, New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
"This book offers a beautifully written and emotionally astute lens at our world gone awry....Poet and debut author Mott has written a breathtaking novel that navigates emotional minefields with realism and grace." Kirkus, starred review
"Mott brings a singularly eloquent voice to this elegiac novel, which not only fearlessly tackles larger questions about mortality but also insightfully captures life's simpler moments....A beautiful meditation on what it means to be human." Booklist, starred review
"This is a masterly first novel for Mott...it speaks to many aspects of the human condition....Highly recommended for those who love a strong story that makes them think." Library Journal (starred review)
"Thought-provoking, occasionally dreamlike...Mott's story of literal life after death will catch readers by their hearts and capture their imaginations....Grab this book as soon as you possibly can." Shelf Awareness
About the Author
Jason Mott holds a BA in fiction and an MFA in poetry and is the author of two poetry collections. His writing has appeared in numerous literary journals, and he was nominated for the 2009 Pushcart Prize. Jason lives in North Carolina.
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