Top critical review
35 people found this helpful
Shades of Torchwood, Les Revenants, and Friends Reunited!
on 15 June 2013
This very much put me in mind of the Torchwood series "Miracle Day" - where people stopped dying and things didn't turn out well. It is also initially similar to the newish French TV series Les Revenants, or The Returned, where those who died a few years ago turn up, the age they were when they died, unaware that time has passed, (I've only watched one episode, so can't say if that all continues!). And there are also (brief) elements of Friends Reunited! What if the love of your life turns up again when you're married and settled with someone else? And still wants you?
But this book isn't anything to do with French TV series, Torchwood, or even Friends Reunited. It's set in America, the dead are returning, and the book is based around a small southern town. The main focus are the parents of returnee Jacob, who died 50 years earlier on his 8th birthday. Now he's back he just wants to be a normal 8 year-old - his determination to spout corny jokes through thick and thin is touchingly written. His parents are conflicted - is he really their son or something else? Do they keep him or let the Man from the Bureau take him? Is he a gift from God or the devil? There are others affected by their own returnees, or by the lack of a returnee, and the main story is interwoven with brief chapters about other, entirely unrelated as far as I could tell, returnees. However, there's no supernatural element to this book. Once we've been presented with the facts of the returned, it becomes an observation on how humanity tends to deal with influxes of those who don't fit. You could almost replace the returnees with Roma, or east Europeans, or anyone with a different colour skin or different way of living. Individuals retain their common decency, but for the pack, our tribal tendencies come to the fore and up go the barricades.
If you're wanting ghosts or zombies or alien interference or divine intervention, this isn't a book for you. This is an observation of ordinary people struggling to cope with events beyond their ken. It reads well, the principle characters engage well, and the plot, once you've accepted the lack of anything supernatural, rolls along a rather depressingly obvious path. There are a few small twists towards the end that I didn't see coming, and it will probably re-read well. What disappointed me was that the questions "Where did they come from?", "Why do some comes back and not others?", and "What's going on?" are never explored.