Friday, September 20, 2013

Jason Mott Dreams Of The Returned

The Returned by Jason Mott isn't the book that many people thought it would be. It's not about the dead rising up from the grave as much as it is about the void they sometimes leave behind. And that's okay.

The author is pretty clear when he makes his case in his prequels. There are no zombies, unless you count the living who have their lives turned upside down when people long since buried begin popping up in the least likely places. There are so many of them, in fact, an entire bureau is created to assist.

And that is where the book, The Returned, really begins. On one seemingly uneventful day, a bureau man knocks on the front door of Harold and Lucille Hargrave. He has something that belongs to them. And they lost it so very, very long ago that its almost impossible to believe.

What would you do if what you lost was returned?

Some people lost mothers. Some people lost fathers. Some lost brothers and sisters. And some lost those who they always assumed were the loves of their lives. But then one day, all the lost began to be found almost exactly the same as the day they were known as the dearly departed. 

For the Hargraves, specifically, it was their son. He died tragically on his eighth birthday party in 1966. And although it wasn't easy, they eventually matured as accidental empty nesters. Even if time did not heal all their wounds, it did temper the pain. They moved on, adjusted, and settled in their quiet and sometimes sadly solitary lives together. 

But not today. Today, several decades after the tragic event that took his life, Jacob stands before them in the flesh. Jacob is home and he is already looking forward to starting over. He opens with a joke. 

"What has four legs and goes booooo?" 

"I don't know," says Harold. 

"A cow with a cold," Jacob says before grabbing his father around the waist in tears. 

Many reunions would play out just like that, but the bureau knows not all of them do. It's one of the reasons of that Agent Bellamy has questions to ask and bureaucratic paperwork to complete. The most important one of them is also the most telling. After all these years, would the Hargraves take him back?

It wasn't the kind of question to take lightly, given Harold and Lucille were in the autumn of their years. But even more than that, they had both formulated opinions about what was happening all over the world, with Lucille seeing it as a sign that it was the end of times. Without any religious fervor, Harold sees them as people. 

Those opinions, of course, both become moot. Nobody knows what they might think about the returned until it is one of their family members at the front door, just like nobody knows what they might think when the bureau begins to rescind the offer of reuniting families and entire towns become detention camps. 

A few more graphs about Jason Mott and The Returned. 

Mott lives in southeastern North Carolina. After receiving his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Mott wrote poetry and fiction for literary journals. He is also the author of two poetry collections, which explains something about his writing for The Returned.

His poetic nature can paint very complete pictures that draw you into the moment, but it can also leave you wanting as well. The meter might sound right when talking about people standing for a "very long time," but it can make you long for something more definitive. This isn't the only place it happens.

Mott leaves more loose ends than are warranted and frequently struggles with whether he wants to tell the small story in Arcadia or a bigger story that spans the globe. The result is that he spins together dozens and dozens of thought-provoking vignettes without giving the reader much ground to walk on.

The Returned By Jason Mott Comes Back With 3.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Keeping in mind that our rating system makes this book a cut above average, The Returned is carried along by scores of memorable scenes and an overwhelmingly intriguing premise. The idea that this is a debut makes it all the better, but readers ought to know ahead of time that this is an emotional think piece that often has a 1950s feel to it. Even the climatic confrontation it leads up to is tied down with civility.

The Returned by Jason Mott can be found on Amazon. It can also be downloaded for iBooks or ordered in print from Barnes & Noble. The audiobook is read by Tom Stechschulte, who brings a warm, timeless storyteller feel to the book. He brings Harold Hargrave to life, but the boy is more of a challenge, especially because Mott froze Jacob at five years old and not eight.
blog comments powered by Disqus