You may recall from earlier this week that I absolutely loved The Returned. So when, in searching for another book, I came across a short story with the same title that was also a prequel to The Returned? SOLD. Well, it was free on Amazon, so not technically sold, but whatever.
And then later, when I discovered that was the middle story of a set of three? I cursed myself for reading things out of order, and then immediately read the other two stories. And then wished there were some more.
This story chronicles the first of the Returned, Edmund Blithe, who is mentioned briefly in the novel itself and whose story ends up being a little bit different from that of the other Returned we meet. Where other Returned show up in seemingly random places, Edmund comes back just weeks after his death to the same place he died, showing up at work and causing some severe emotional distress amongst his coworkers. The story is told partly from the perspective of his erstwhile fiancée, who has just finally gotten over the recent and sudden death of her favorite person and now has to deal with the fact that he’s come back but may or may not be himself and also he’s in government custody and how will she see him anyway, and partly from Edmund’s perspective of being unable to answer the government’s questions and also he’d really just like to see his favorite person, if that would be okay. I liked this one a lot.
This is the first of the stories that I read, and I almost didn’t want to read the others because it’s kind of weird, or at least quite different from The Returned. It’s about a young couple who find a Returned child and take her in, but the two adults have very different ideas about how to take care of her and the story chronicles that fallout. Much of the story, though, is told in flashback to the child’s first youth and is about the stories that she invented with her parents, one of whom is often away during a time of fighting and is only able to sneak back sporadically. It’s an interesting story, certainly, and has some deep thoughts, but I was expecting something more like “The First” and so was a bit disappointed. Read this second, like you’re supposed to!
Probably my least favorite of the bunch, this story treads a familiar path if you’ve read the book — a married man finds out that his childhood love, who died as a teenager, has returned and very much wants to see him again. The man, who has had a not-terribly-happy marriage due to still kind of being in love with his dead teenage girlfriend, fights the urge to see her, but after his wife finds out she decides that they should both go to visit her. The story is good, but it is practically straight out of the book so I’m not sure what purpose it serves.
All in all, if you’ve read the book and are interested in taking another trip into that world, I would stick with just the first story, which hews closely to the style and tone of the book. If you haven’t read the book and have half an hour to spare, you should read all of them and then, if you like the stories, put The Returned right on top of your TBR pile! You should do that last part anyway, really.
an RIP read