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The Returned by Jason Mott features the living dead, but those who have returned are not horrifying, shambling, eat-the-living zombies.
The Returned begins with Jacob, who drowned on his eighth birthday 50 years ago. Somehow he is resurrected in China, as a lost and confused little boy who only wants to go home. Jacob is reunited with his now-elderly and bewildered parents, Lucille and Harold, in Arcadia, North Carolina. His return is facilitated by the Bureau, a brand-new government agency formed to deal with the growing problem of the Returned.
Agent Bellamy is the Bureau’s family liaison, at least until many more of the Returned start arriving around the world, and the Bureau puts the military in charge to keep order.
What is really happening, and why? None of the Returned have memories after their deaths, and they don’t know why they’re back. They are perceived as happy miracles by some and demons by others.
And what to do with them; where will they stay, how will they live? Some folks are threatened by the Returned, and groups forms against them, with riots and violence against both the living and the (formerly) dead.
Author Jason Mott is a poet; the writing in The Returned is elegiac, spare, and lovely. Somehow, he takes an event that has spawned countless bad zombie movies, and uses it to explore what it means to be human and to struggle with love and loss.
What would we do, what would we say, if we had the chance to speak with our loved ones again? The Returned explores these questions, and the answers it offers are worth the read.