The Returned
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184 of 208 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2013
I really wanted to like this novel, but it's rather depressing and, truth be told, I never really made a connection with the characters. This is a very finely written piece, don't get me wrong, but my questions were never answered. Why the returned come, what their purpose is, where they go when they disappear... I just don't know, and that was the main reason I picked up this novel; I wanted to know.

Instead, this novel focuses on the appearance of the dead (not zombies, mind you), and how the world decides to react to such an anomaly. However, no one has answers, so it's more or less the blind leading the blind, with some embracing the dead, some detesting it, and others ready to lock them up forever. Like I said, it's a very depressing tale. We learn how the government decides to handle it, which isn't very well, more like the Japanese Internment Camps than anything else, and we get to know characters... only to watch them traverse terrible atrocities and, ultimately, die. But why they emerged from the earth again, and what their purpose was aside from driving the story, well, I don't know.

What I did enjoy about the novel, though, was that the chapters break up to follow certain characters, even though it's told in third person, and we meet new returned and hear their brief stories. But again, it is all very tragic, and truthfully, I felt somewhat awful upon finishing it; angry with humanity. But maybe that was the purpose? People can turn evil, which is shown in this novel in very real sense, and while there are some good people interspersed, I really came out of this with a depressed soul and a feeling of disillusionment with humankind.

Overall, it's very well written, but such a depressing tale isn't really my speed. I guess I was hoping for mystery and danger, a sense of horror or something, but that's not what this novel is about, and it just wasn't for me.

(Please note: I use the rating system of Goodreads, which is different from Amazon. My overall personal rating is that this novel was okay.)
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152 of 178 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 10, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
After finishing, there's no wonder why there was a major bidding war between many of the top networks to bring this story to television. ABC won, and the show, retitled 'Resurrection', will premiere early next year on the Alphabet network. An elderly couple in the small town of Arcadia North Carolina answer their door one afternoon to find a government agent on their doorstep with their son Jacob. A child who died when he was eight years old, nearly thirty years ago. Their story becomes one of many as the deceased start turning up looking for their loved ones, and the living attempt to grapple with what it all means. The premise is eerie, and slightly unsettling, and could turn some people off reading because of its mystical bent, but they would be missing out on one of the more thought provoking debuts this year.
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182 of 223 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Imagine someone coming to your door. They're dressed in a well cut suit and tie, looking official. You can tell by their air of authority that they are a government man. Behind that government man stands a young boy spouting the same joke you taught your child, the boy who drowned decades ago. The voice sounds the same and when you get a gander at him you see that it is your son, returned by some miracle from the dead. That's what happens to Harold Hargrave and thus starts "The Returned" and from the very first page I was hooked.

Lucille and Harold Hargrave are in their seventies now. They are good, decent people who know right from wrong and act accordingly, so when the government locates a concentration camp in their small town of Arcadia to contain the "returned", dead people who have mysteriously started showing up all over the world, they are forced to reconcile their beliefs with reality. They know the boy Agent Bellamy brought them is their son, but what does mean? They grapple with that question as more and more of the "returned" are relocated in Arcadia. Pressure builds between the living and the returned as soldiers transport truck loads of the living dead into Arcadia and stay to guard them. When Harold and his son, Jacob, end up in the camp, Lucille Hargrave decides to take action but not before the tension has built to a boiling point between the town's people, the soldiers, and the thousands of returned that now inhabit the town. I read with great anticipation to find how this was all going to play out.

Mott's characters are alive and vibrant. When Harold's smoker's hack becomes uncontrollable, my lungs burned. When Lucille chastises Harold for one of his many faults, I could hear my wife chastising me. When both try to keep Jacob close and protect him from the chaos and violence, they did what any parent would do despite their misgivings about Jacob. When Agent Bellamy and Harold played horseshoes, I could hear the ring of the shoe as it hit the stake and feel the comradery of two people playing a friendly game as they discussed what was going on. I was there and now I'm not and I'll miss these people.

Mott's writing is superb. The story flows and the plot develops with elegant images and sensory perceptions. As a reader, I propelled myself through the book with wonderment and awe and hated to reach the end of such fine writing. The book is a nice respite from the mundane. Mott, is that all you've got?
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205 of 256 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I read the three free Kindle short-story prequels ("The First," "The Sparrow" and "The Choice") and was intrigued with the concept of the Returned: a book about large numbers of previously dead people returning to life whole, healthy, intact, and with all their memories unchanged. When I was offered the chance to get an advanced reader copy, I jumped on it! I was eager to find out what visionary dramatic experience awaited me with the full-length book. I'm sorry to say I was disappointed. I love science fiction and the supernatural...but this book never went in that direction.

I'd hoped the book would shed more light on the phenomenon. What was behind the dead returning? Were they really human? Was this a unique sophisticated type of alien invasion? In particular, what type of detailed studies did scientist run in order to try to understand it? What incredible and scary things did these scientists learn? These things interested me. But the author never went in that direction. In fact, the whole book seemed to shy away from the scientific side of the story at every chance. Readers were expected to be satisfied with the idea that what was happening was--plain and simple--unexplainable miracles, acts of God. Most characters in the book seem to have little trouble seeing these events as forming some part of the End Times...a time when "the dead shall walk upon the earth once again."

What this novel did was to focus on human loss and reconnection...and that wasn't where I wanted it to go. Actually, the author pretty much tells us this in the forwards to the free prequel, "The First." There he tells us clearly what he wanted to achieve in the book and prequels. There, he says: "...the novel is about loss, and the many different ways we respond to it." He also states that the novel illuminates "...the complex range of emotions of lovers being reunited after tragedy has torn them apart."

The author fulfilled that promise. "The Returned" is about the heartfelt human drama of love, loss, and family connections. It is a positive theme of family love set within an alarming and frightening situation...a situation that, in my opinion, should have been a whole lot more imaginative, creepy, and terrorizing.

Overall, I didn't think the author delivered a compelling or believable plot. The book does give readers a few tantalizing news-report-style glimpses of horrific happenings around the globe related to the Returned phenomenon, but the action in this book takes place exclusively in the rural town of Arcadia, North Carolina. Through the course of this book, we find out how this small town in the Bible Belt deals with the crisis. I won't give away what happens, but is not a pretty picture of humanity. Through this plot, the author appears to attempt to give us a tiny glimpse of what the beginning terror of a possible End Times might be like as played out in a rural corner of America in the first few months of the phenomenon.

Most of the time, I felt the plot lacked substance and imagination. I found myself constantly doing mental exercises, seeing obvious holes that didn't make sense. I gave this book a two-star rating because I finished it and it had its moments. But to be perfectly honest, I didn't like it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2013
After reading the prequels, I was looking forward to reading The Returned but, I have to say, I was very disappointed in the storyline. The author could have done so much with the subject matter but it fell flat. I felt the stories were left hanging - who was the girl locked up in the room, what happened to the engaged couple in the prequel, why did they come back, etc. Too many questions left unanswered.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2013
"The Returned" is a book with many questions, but few answers. Jason Mott's writing has a nice style, but the book fails to answer so many basic questions that it really is like listening to a long "and then..." dream that isn't particularly interesting. If you are a person who likes events to have a cause-and-effect relationship, or who likes to know the reasons why something is happening, or who is bothered by questions you ask yourself, such as, "But wait...why didn't they think of checking...", then this book will disappoint you.

This is not really a spoiler, but it does reveal some things that are NOT included in the book, so stop here if you are particularly sensitive to spoiler-ish things. I am going to reveal what the author himself talks about in the afterword.

Jason Mott's afterword reveals that the book actually is based on a dream he had. He says that he had many questions himself, such as why are the dead coming back, and why do they seemingly appear and disappear randomly? He apparently didn't realize that, as the author, he had the ability to make up his own reason. So no reason is ever stated. No cause is ever explained. Most of the dramatic events unfold illogically, also without cause or reason. It is only in the final pages that it is stated that the dead are beginning to disappear and REAPPEAR in their graves. The fact that they were disappearing from their graves was one of my big questions, and it was never established in the book. That's one of those things I mentioned above that bugged me: since so many people are wondering if the returned are real people, didn't anybody think to dig up graves and see if the bodies are still there? The author apparently didn't think it was a question worth answering. Providing answers would have ruined the dream-like tone of the novel.

To sum up: "The Returned" is five characters in search of a plot.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2014
Plot synopsis: 10's of thousands of dead people reappear all over the world, usually far from the place they died. Not all dead people, but a lot, apparently all from the past sixty years or so (no Neanderthals, that would have been interesting). Most are whole and healthy and want to resume their lives. Some people are thrilled by this, some are repelled, some are angry, everybody is bewildered. By government fiat most are rounded up and placed in concentration camps. Later on all the formerly dead begin to vanish. End of story No explanation is provided for any of this. None of the interesting questions are answered: what the heck is going on, are these the restored and reanimated bodies of the dead or something else? Does anyone check the graves to see if they are empty? No. Why doesn't somebody tackle the "returned" as a research question? Instead they repeatedly interview the formerly dead and ask them what they remember about being dead. Answer: nothing. The substance of the book (what there is) deals with the emotional issues of an older couple whose son returns, after being drowned in 1966 at the age of eight. The issues are pretty much what you'd expect. There are also a lot of not-so-subtle racial things going on. At one point a formerly dead girl from Sierra Leone is interviewed in one of the camps. She goes on about how she is safe now, and she feels good because they are "white" and Americans and so will "treat her kindly", etc. Her interviewer then pulls out a pistol and shoots her dead (or dead again). Wow, didn't see that coming. What happens next? Nothing. This scene comes out of nothing and goes nowhere.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 27, 2013
In this mystical tale people around the world begin to return from the dead. They just appear one day, not necessarily where they died or where they lived, searching for their home or loved ones. No one is sure what they are or why they have come back. Even "The Returned" don't know. At first the government is accommodating and attempts to reunite them with their families, but after a while the situation begins to get intense as more and more people "return". Where will they live and can the planet sustain an unlimited number of people?

Although I very much enjoyed the book, I was tiny bit disappointed it wasn't the work of speculative fiction I was expecting. I would have enjoyed a deeper explanation or at least more insight into The Returned, but that was not the author's intention. That part is left up to us. Also, this is not a science fiction story, the people are not turned into zombies or monsters. Instead, it was an emotional story about life, relationships, and what was or what could have been. There is an almost spiritual journey here.

The main focus of the novel is on Harold and Lucille Hargrave, their `returned' son and Agent Bellamy, the local government liaison from the Bureau of the The Returned. The writing style was simple, yet graceful. Following each chapter is a two or three page essay written from the point of view of one of the Returned. These brief stories provide an interesting glimpse into the life of the individual; some are part of the greater story, some are not. And while these stories answered some questions, I was left with many more.

This is not a happy or feel good tale. It's one that makes you think. While it's not terribly sad, the story is very emotional. You can't read this book and not think about someone you have lost that you would like to see again, even if it were only for a few days. At the end of the novel, in the Author's Notes, the author explains his motivation for writing the book. Now I understand.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
What could present a better storyline than this, people who have actually experienced whether or not there is something beyond death? From a first glance at the title the reader may be mistaken in thinking that this is the usual undead meal served on a different plate, but they would be wrong. This Author took a different angle to this now well-worn and tired out old scenario, and then failed to bring it to its full glory.

What could have been a novel full of intriguing characters and an even better storyline that would have kept me turning pages was instead, a novel full of characters I really couldn’t care less about and a plot that left me with more questions than answers. The main protagonists in this novel are almost mechanical like in their personalities and nature, but rather than making the reader wonder what about their current situation makes them this way they are left feeling they are reading about flat one dimensional non people. Even the main “returned” character is boring, and that was the biggest disappointment for me in this novel; instead of filling him with insight and revelations on what lay beyond, the Author took the complete opposite tack and had this character say nothing at all about death and the afterlife.

The plot line moves along at a slow and plodding pace and, even though I don’t expect everything I read to be fast-paced and full of action, in a book with this topic as the plot I was expecting places that would make me think and wonder; and not about whether I would make it to the end or not. The redeeming factor for me that kept me going to the end was the interspersion of stories told of the other “returned”. These snippets gave more of an insight into the effect of their coming back, not only on their families but on society as a whole. They were moving and emotional, and from an interest point of view knocked the socks off the main plot line. In my opinion, after reading this and seeing how well the Author tackled the shorts, I feel they would fare better by writing short stories than attempting to breathe life into a series that hasn’t even made it out of the gates for this reader. I doubt I will be reading any of the subsequent books.

I will recommend this book to a certain reader who may enjoy this, but I’m not entirely sure who that reader would be as I felt I definitely was not in the targeted audience.

Originally reviewed on: [...]
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 22, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I read the early raves from the respectable sources and jumped at the chance when this book was offered on Amazon Vine.

The author is a BFA/MFA with an emphasis in poetry. That technical background comes out in the writing. The author writes great scenes and set pieces. In word choice and flow you can observe a poet's ear. This is one of those love it or hate it traits because you either luxuriate in the slower pace and the words or you are tapping your toes saying get on with it.

The concept is a great one, dead people returning to life just as they were but much later. As a reader I wondered if the author took the concept from the Gospel of Matthew which has "many saints rising from their graves" at the time of the crucifixion. In Matthew that stands as a symbol of the in-breaking of the Messianic reign. Here there are hints of such things, but that is not the focus. The focus is not on the how's or why's of the event, but upon the who's and the emotional tolls of both loss and recovery out of time. The event happens which gives opportunity to observe the how's of the original grief and the how's of life after the event. The event itself, its mystery, meaning and purpose, remain in layers of mysticism.

It is here where I started to hear false notes. The observation of loss and grief was strong and true. The off notes were in the reaction of people moving forward. Like in Scorsese's Passion of the Christ where the returned Lazarus must be killed, the reaction of the larger book is dramatic. The returned are more or less quarantined. This sets up a "good" vs. "bad" tension that isn't really deserved while creating an artificial space to examine the reconnection. In the Gospels Jesus raises or returns three people. They are all "given back" to their families. But we learn nothing more about them other than they return to everyday life. The deep reality of blending back into society as it is, and the ability of people all around to blind themselves to miracles walking amongst us everyday, is the false note. The real story I would have been looking for is how the returned actually returned to normal society. How a dead boy is returned and proves blessing and curse to his mother. How it rips open old wounds yet allows for grace seen in everyday experience. How the returned can marvel at the blindness of those around and yet start to be blind to their own experience. But that is not the story told. Instead we have the artificially small world and all too easy heroes and villains which are completely unnecessary.

I can recommend the book as an engaging, smart and well written concept, but for as much as humanity is understood from the loss side, it is missed in the returning.
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