Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Returned

In a small French village, people's lives go on as usual although many of them have experienced tragedies and trauma. All of their lives are overshadowed by someone who has died, whether they know it or not. When the dead come back exactly as they died, the sleepy town is thrown into chaos. If that weren't enough, brutal murders occur, eerily similar to unsolved cases of years ago. The town's scars are reopened and raw. Only time will tell who will be strong enough to continue, who will die, and if the dead are here to stay.

When the novel opens, the cast of characters are stuck in some aspect of their lives or on the cusp of moving on. Jerome is separated from his wife Claire because both of them never recovered from her daughter's death. Jerome pushed everyone away and now lives alone, clinging to a psychic for solace. Claire is with sanctimonious, creepy Pierre. Their remaining daughter Lena throws herself into drink and drugs to forget. Adele is about to get married when her previous lover died on the day they were supposed to be married. Julie throws herself into work and rejects her former girlfriend after being attacked years ago. Toni continues to be haunted by his past choices and his mother's judgment for them. While their day to day lives are fairly normal, their pasts are with them every single day.

When they return, the dead appear exactly before they died and have no memory of what happened. Outwardly, they appear completely normal and coherent. Inability to sleep and an insatiable hunger plague them. Each of the main characters are visited by a zombie who causes secrets to resurface and their entire lives to change. Each person reacts to them differently. Claire sees the return of her daughter Camille as a gift from god while Pierre sees it as the beginning of the end times. Adele sees the return of her late fiance Simon as a psychological vision because she is remarrying. Julie protects little Victor even though she's never seen him before and sees him as abused and broken as she views herself. Toni falls back into old habits with his unstable brother Serge. One man, Michel, sets his house on fire and kills himself. The dead mean something different to everyone and all transform their lives for better or worse.

While much of the story is a drama between characters, some chilling imagery and eerie events take place. When Camille comes home, a torn up rabbit is found in the garbage and all of the photos with her in them are torn to shreds. A few murders are found with signs that parts of the victims were eaten, mirroring those of years ago. Around the underwater city, animals were so scared that they would rather drown themselves than face whatever scared them. Overall, I wish there was much more horror in this book. So much of it was slow and quiet, focusing on the character's relationships and secrets, but I was truly expecting a huge horrific ending that never came.

The Returned is the heartbreaking story of the dead returning to life, opening old wounds and uncovering buried secrets for the living. Although the story undeniably has flaws and some revelations that come out of nowhere, the book was enjoyable. The anticlimactic ending really through me off and it felt like there was something missing. This book was based on the French television show Les Revenants which was remade into an American TV show The Returned. Although the French show is pretty much universally acclaimed and the American show was cancelled, I will check both out to see the comparisons between each other and the book.

My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins

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