The Art & Soul of Wilmington
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FA H O L I D A
Stephen E. Smith’s most recent book of poems is A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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but when Jacob steps back into her life, she immediately resumes her duties as a loving mother. Harold isn’t so quick to accept this incarnation of his son, and he fumbles to comprehend what is essentially an unfathomable mystery. In his pocket he finds an old cross he’s carried since Jacob’s death, the words “God Loves You” worn from grief so that only the “O” and “Y” remain (a trifle obvious, perhaps). When Jacob, Lucille and Harold attend church for a town meeting, Pastor Robert Peters, a man caught up in his own dilemmas, both personal and spiritual, reacts awkwardly. “He took Jacob’s hand, being sure that even those in the back of the church, those who could not see, had time enough to be told what he was doing, how he was speaking of patience as he held the hand of the boy who had been dead for a half century and who was now, suddenly, peacefully sucking candy in front of the church, in the very shadow of the cross.” The Returned present an overwhelming challenge to the government, and Martin Bellamy, the bureaucrat who delivers Jacob to his parents, immediately sets about filling out the requisite forms. “Of course, even for people returning from the dead, there was paperwork.” When these mysterious beings begin to accumulate in excessive numbers, the government attempts to confine them in concentration camps, one of which is located in Arcadia. Soldiers are brought in to guard the Returned and to protect them from the True Living movement whose ultimate aim is to kill these innocent beings. Harold has himself interned with his son and takes responsibility for the child’s well being, while Lucille remains at home, preparing their meals and plotting to set them free. The novel concludes with an “Author’s Note” that explains how The Returned came to be written and supplies, albeit unnecessarily, Mott’s motivation for writing the novel. “In July 2010, a couple of weeks after the anniversary of my mother’s death, I dreamed of her. The dream was a simple one: I came home from work and she was there, at the dinner table waiting for me . . . [It was] an opportunity to see her smile, to hear her voice, a chance to stay with her in those last days of her life, rather than hide from her the way I did in the real world.” Guilt is powerful stuff. The Returned is a strong first outing — the novel has already been picked up for a TV series — and if readers are left with more questions than answers, the story’s innate appeal and thematic resonance far outweigh any technical deficiencies. b
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N OV E M B E R 1 4 - 1 6
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The Art & Soul of Wilmington