It is way too easy to dismiss this book. Yeah, it fits somewhere in the miasma of other unreal reunions from popular visual media. I am referencing the French TV series called Les Revenants, fired off in 2012 and Americanized into The Returned by the A&E channel this year. Or, there's the spin-off from author Mott's work re-titled Resurrection, a series started in 2014 and is currently running. Then there's the ones straddling the fence like The Messengers (aliens kill some humans who come back to warn everybody else about The Apocalypse), or The Leftovers (it's all in the title, dude) from 2014. And there's some parallel plotlines in The X-Files (1993-2002), I'm sure, but I'm too lazy to bitchslap through 9 seasons. I could probably come up with some movies and books if I sunk my glands into the project. But this story's guts lies closer to a book I read earlier this year. The Age of Miracles, which takes its disaster externally, yet delivers a similar, emotional wallop.
Time is running out, mios. The past is gone, the future enigmatical. Somewhere up ahead both of these time signatures merge into the middle, the present. Which one did you say you are living in these days?
I'm not going to tumble down and piss my pants over this one. I found a lot of the pageturning to be strictly rote 'n' routine. You read this for the author's concerns, which are heartfelt, important, and astute. Poets turned to prose are always suspicious anyway, aren't they? Just think if T. S. Eliot woulda wrote The Waste Land as a novel.
Fifty years ago Lucille and Howard's little 8-year old boy Jacob drowned in the river. Today he shows up as if coming home from fishing. Except he can't remember anything besides some vague, centralized memories from ago. Inotherwords, he knows who he is, just not what he's been doing.
Lucille is Mother. She hugs him and is off to bake cookies. Howard, however, does not believe his son's story, or the stories of other people—like the Wilsons who become the town's xenophobic poster people—who also "return" from the dead. The micro mirrors the macro, as America embraces, once again, one of its worst atrocities against its staunchly-held principles in modern times—the incarceration of its citizens into holding camps like the infamous Manzanar relocation center on the backside of California's Sierra Nevada. The world breaks into new, bitter distinctions: the Returned and the True Living. But unlike the interred Japanese Americans of WWII, this antonymous bunch ends its conversation in the worst possible way (1).
In Author's Note at the back of the book, Jason Mott tells about his own catharsis regarding guilt and his Mother's natural death.
My Mother died of temporal arteritis on her birthday in 2009, my Father somewhat earlier of emphysema. I spent the last of my Mother's days at her bedside, and, when I wasn't, reading Dean Koontz novels(2). I did not view her corpse, like I had with my Dad. The wrought of it all I concluded was from loss not guilt. But 6 years later—like, now—I'm still crying. I won't say I found what author Mott found—reconciliation through his characters—but The Returned sure brought up some painful, emotional digressions. No human being who thinks of himself as "sensitive" can discount the possibility of id guilt over his actions. Raw nerves are hard to balm, even with awareness.
There's more instructional, societal-themed realizations present than just running away from your affected self. But the book's weight will depend on you. Hopefully, any attempt at personal honesty is worth the pain.
Or reading a slow but judicious fiction.
2) see LINK here.