Reading Group Guide
1. In THE RETURNED, the Hargraves find themselves at the center of a world-wide phenomenon where people's loved ones are returning from the dead. If a deceased loved one returned to you, how would you react? Would you be scared? Grateful?
2. Despite constant questioning, Jacob can't recall what happened to him between the time he passed away in the river and when he awoke again in China. What do you believe happens to us when we die?
3. In Arcadia, and around the world, there are various strong reactions to the Returned. Which side did you identify with- those who believed it was a miracle, or those who thought it was a harbinger of the end times. Did your reaction change over the course of the novel?
4. Several vignettes feature emotional reconnections between loved ones. Does love --- either romantic or familial --- transcend death? If so, how?
5. Jason Mott includes an extremely touching author's note at the end of the text explaining his inspiration for the novel. How does his sense of longing for closure --- for one more chance to speak to his mother --- inform his treatment of the characters in THE RETURNED?
6. Fred Green is perhaps the most vocal opponent to the existence of the Returned in Arcadia. Why? Can you sympathize with him? Would his reaction have been different had his wife also Returned?
7. Near the end of the novel, we learn that in fact, Lucille never believed the Returned Jacob was her son. Meanwhile, Harold believed that he was. Were you surprised by this revelation? Do you think it could be a metaphor for different methods of grieving?
8. The Government intervention in Arcadia quickly escalates from peace keeping to near military governance. Could you imagine such a takeover happening in your town? Were you reminded of any other moments in history?
9. What is the role of religion in the novel?
10. Discuss the significance of the cross and Harold's search for closure after Lucille's death.
11. Do you believe in miracles? If so, what kind?
12. Harold often recalls the jokes he used to tell with his son. What are some of your favorite memories of a loved one you've lost?