Books in the Media Week 3: “The Returned” by Jason Mott

The ReturnedThe Returned by Jason Mott

Genre: Contemporary, Supernatural, Sci-fi/Fantasy
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published 27 August 2013 by Harlequin MIRA
$27.95 CAD
Harold and Lucille Hargrave are an elderly couple that have spent their lives on the outskirts of a small southern town called Arcadia. Their life has had its ups and down; most notably it has been defined by loss. They have managed to find some semblance of happiness over the years, though it has been coloured by sorrow. That day back in 1966 changed their lives forever. Their only child, Jacob, wandered off during his birthday party and drowned. Since then, they have bandaged their wounds and moved on as best they can. 
One day, there is a knock on their door. Waiting on the other side is a federal officer… with their perfect, darling eight year old son in tow, unchanged by death and the passage of fifty years. This is not just confined to the Hargraves. It is happening all over the world.
At first it seems like a wondrous miracle. But then the reality of human nature sets in. Not everyone sees these people in the same light. Are they an abomination? A sign of the end times? Are they even people? Around the world, the reaction to those entitled The Returned vary. However, the lack of understanding of them breeds fear. And fear breeds chaos. 
As the world tries to cope with this strange occurrence, the very meaning of what it is to be human is challenged. The people of the town of Arcadia, and those around the globe, must grapple with the question of faith, morality, love, loss, and responsibility. A poignant and powerful tale, The Returned is a stunning debut.
I was originally drawn to this novel because its description reminded me of the show The 4400, which I quite enjoy. The Returned, however, surpassed my expectations. I thought this book would turn out to be more Sci-fi than anything. That wasn’t the case, though. As the pages turned, it became more and more clear that this story was an exploration of humanity and the tragedy of loss. It wasn’t about the what-ifs that fantasy and sci-fi usually explore. The return of the dead wasn’t the point of the book—it was a tool to unravel deeper truths about love, loss, and human connection. It was about forgiveness and healing, and the power of letting go. 
As I read this book, it wasn’t difficult to relate to these characters. I have never experienced quite such a loss, thus nor am I able to really understand the implications of the possibility of their return. However, the author weaves such a beautiful and emotional story, that each character and their plight touched my heart. Their pain was my pain. This story was quite poignant and emotionally charged. I really enjoyed it. 

TV Series (2014–)
Genre: Fantasy, Supernatural, Drama
Starring Omar Epps, Frances Fisher, Matt Craven
My Rating: C
As one would expect, in the TV adaptation of the book (titled Resurrection), there are some changes. For the most part, they are arbitrary: the Hargraves become the Langstons, Harold becomes Henry, the years since Jacob’s death go from fifty to thirty-two, etc. There are also, however, a few more important changes. Fred is no longer just a resident of Arcadia but is Harold’s (Henry’s) brother; Jacob didn’t drown alone, but with his aunt; the Pastor isn’t just the Pastor but Jacob’s childhood best friend, etc. 
All-in-all, however, the show doesn’t quite hold up to my expectations. Although I do realize that a book and a TV show are very different mediums, I don’t think the show keeps with the integrity of the book. However, the show is still enjoyable. Right now, there are only eight episodes. Usually I can watch several episodes of a show I like in one sitting, and would have no trouble watching eight in a relatively short period of time. For Resurrection, though, it took me a few weeks to watch those episodes. At first I was interested out of curiosity, then it became a bit of a chore. While there were certainly good elements, under normal circumstances I don’t think I would have found it compelling enough to continue watching.
Since I had tasked myself with a combination review, I made myself watch it to the end. I am glad I did. The last couple of episodes were good and, although rather different from the book, they managed to touch on some of the same aspects of humanity that I originally found compelling. Perhaps in the next season of the show they will go deeper into the more interesting elements of the plot. I hope they do. I hope that they just slowed things down in the beginning to make more room for future episodes. If they don’t keep the pace up with the last two episodes, then I will have to dub this show a dud, as most of the episodes were drawn out and, honestly, a bit boring.