“Some folks locked the doors of their hearts when they lost someone. Others kept the doors and the windows open, letting memory and love pass through freely. And maybe that was the way it was supposed to be, Harold thought.”
It is easy to grasp the idea that the premise of the novel has a great ability to grab the attention of the eternally hopeful as well as the curious cats. Consider me both of these as I take a few moments to reflect on time lost and how I would have benefited from having some of the wisdom in my life during my teenage years that many take for granted. Beyond the scope of selfishness, how would society react to this unthinkable phenomena? Given my sentiments I naturally had an increased positive bias for the feelings of this book before I cracked the binding. Unfortunately, this book did nothing to reinforce my bias and resulted in a disappointment and a rather insatiable feeling.
Unfortunately there are a few reasons why I felt this book failed to deliver. The main plot line centering on the Hargrave’s family quite frankly did not have much of an emotional effect on me. There is quality character development found within the author’s construction of Harold’s personality structure. From the start the reader bear’s witness to the changes he experiences in values, principles and perspectives along the way that brought merit to the choice of narrative. But in the end, despite the arc I just didn’t care much for Harold, or at all for his wife Lucille.On another note, if you watched the movie 28 Days Later, remember when the first portion of the story was reminiscent of Charlton Heston in The Omega Man with all the isolation and the search for fellow survivors. Great story right, then as soon as your settled in it gets all militaristic and the story gets lost. This was my reaction to The Returned. I was content with the way the story was going but once it went the other way the story got lost and my interest wavered. It’s not that I wasn’t expecting something like that to happen, it’s just that it came through the pages as distracting and hurried. It would have been better suited for the reader to understand the ascension to militarism but not have the main characters go and grab themselves some Kalashnikov’s and go to the front lines.
Now on to a serious personal revelation, one for which I feel I must go through proper protocol to the literary gods: “Bless me father for I have sinned it has been some time since my last confession, but these are my sins.” I hate to admit it but I found myself skimming. Skimming is a practice I try my best to stay away from as I feel indebted to the author for taking the time to create art and interest in a matter of importance to them. I will skim non-fiction books filled with a plethora of factoids, statistics, and measurements, but when it comes to more story focused novels I ultimately feel that I must reciprocate and uphold my end of the agreement. The dullness in the middle of the story just made me long for the ending, which in retrospect I am glad I stuck it out because it was was executed very well. I truly found that the stories of the other characters were very enthralling and showcased many emotional states that the returnees as well as their families experienced. These stories were very atmospheric and allowed the reader to be present in their shoes as they experienced the reactions of what were once their loved ones. After rejection where would they go? Would they face prejudices? What was their purpose? How long would they stay? The first night with this story I dog-eared it after reading the tear-inducing snippet of Angela Johnson.
” ‘The floors of the guest bedroom in which she had been locked for the past three days were hardwood and beautiful. When they brought her meals, she tried not to spill anything, not wanting to ruin the floor and compound her punishment for whatever she had done wrong.”
‘She sat in the corner with her knees pulled to her chest, crying just a little, sorry for whatever she had done, not understanding any of this.’ “
This to me was incredibly heartbreaking and made me feel ashamed for society as a whole, but also understanding that their fear and aggression was in response to their confusion caused by the returned. I was very intrigued at the possibilities of this novel because they seemed endless and in some cases unpredictable. At that point in the book my anticipation was so high that, I could not wait to sleep so I could get back up and start reading again.
The beginning and end of the book were solid, the middle needed some relief in the form of more concise storytelling. In retrospect I think it would have also been beneficial to have a little understanding of the Hargrave’s family dynamic before Jacob died and how that event altered their own personalities for better or worse. You are told how Harold and Lucille’s relationship endured from the point of their son’s untimely death, but their is not much background information before the death that would have allowed the reader to paint a clearer picture.I wish the utilization of humor was more consistent throughout the novel as I felt it brought a little levity to an otherwise heavy topic.Some people don’t like the mingling of genres, but I feel that given whatever the current societal, environmental, or physical conditions that a character faces, not everyone will go through it with pursed lips and a furrowed brow. The back and forth banter between husband and wife were one I could relate to while in difficult times and one that would have made Lucille a little fleshed out and amiable.
This book is probably more suited for the reflective adult that can sympathetically understand the feelings of the characters and not the readers who require a consistent amount of intrigue and action. All in all I am thankful for getting the opportunity to reading and reviewing this book and wish Jason Mott the best of luck with the television show and all of his other endeavours.
“People and events of wonder and magic are the lifeblood of the world.”