Review of: The Returned
by Jason Mott
Copyright 2013 by Jason Mott
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
$24.95 US, $27.95 CAN.
Nothing is more satisfying than reading a spellbinding book from a new author who knows how to apply all the necessary ingredients to keep you reading. I have had that satisfying experience this weekend.
Author, Jason Mott, is a unique story craftsman, and reveals his exceptional talent in his new book, “The Returned.” I started reading it on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m., and never put it down until I finished it the same day, at 8:30 p.m. When I came out of the shock of realizing I was finished with the book, and also discovering that I was not there in the book, I cried. Yes. That is how mesmerized I was in the story.
Here are some technical points about the creative mind of the author I wish to point out. There is definitely a well thought out plot, with multiple subplots that could turn into other books in the future. Secondly, the author skillfully injects a cathartic character (read Author’s Notes and Acknowledgments in the back–I always read those first) endearing the reader to that particular character, which serves to compel the reader to forge through the morass of events and see what happens to, and why that character is so important to the story: is he a string in the unraveling yarn that will carry us to the conclusion? Or–just a good distraction? Finally, one of its major characters is ejected from the story, but since the story itself is not based on natural phenomena, it is possible to see that character again in future books (I hope!). Based on surreal events in the story, and if I had to characterize the book within a genre, I would have to say it is a toss-up between Magical Realism and Gothic or philosophical Horror.
Most old veteran story-makers know how to pull a yarn, and so it is with this new author who works exceptionally well to weave a tale that appeals to the widest audience possible. Here are a couple examples: in the plot, a focused reader can almost count the complications and will feel drawn to make conclusions that seem natural to make. Remember though, this is not a natural story. At the very beginning, Motthijacks the reader’s expectations by throwing an immediate curveball. This is the main string in the plot that pulls the reader headlong into the story with but does not lead you to, the truth of what the reader expects to find out–which is the Phenomenon that runs through the whole story. If one is curious enough to keep pulling the yarn, one thinks oneself astute enough to know what’s next–again–but it is never what the reader expects. Remember: it is not a natural story, but a terrifying phenomenon–yes: terrifying. I use that word deliberately.
And such a terrifying phenomenon is the thematic yarn that pulls you through the story. The Denoument never really happens regarding the Phenomenon, but instead, the author takes us deeper into the minds and hearts of the characters, which is ingeniously structured to make the reader ponder long after the book is over: what would I have done if this happened to me, to us, today? And: Who do I think would go wrong, right, haywire, or die…Or “return” and would I do what Harold or Lucille did? Or instead, would I be like Fred, or would I have been complacent as Bellamy?
In short, the story gets under your skin, into your mind, and pains your heart, exactly as an extraordinary story should do. I refuse to waste time telling you the plot. You need to read the book yourself, then find others that would debate the ending with you. And the ending IS a debate, I can assure you. I am hoping for a sequel, and fast!