In this second prequel to The Returned, we are told the story of Tatiana, a 10 year old girl from Sierra Leone, who is found near a highway by Heather and Matt Campbell. As Heather struggles to find Tatiana’s family, we can see that her husband has a very different idea about the girl and all the other Returned.
I enjoyed this prequel to The Returned more than the first one, The First. It is not action driven at all – you know this couple has found the girl and is trying to reunite her with her family, and that’s it. Instead, it focuses on the characters and their backstories, and it was just what I needed. I felt very moved and enthralled by it.
In this short story, we alternate between the present day, when Heather and Matt find Tatiana, and Tati’s life in Sierra Leone just before she and her mother were murdered. If there is one criticism I have to make about the book is that I could not clearly tell when the timeframe would switch. Maybe the narrator could have paused a bit more, I am not sure what exactly failed there.
I also wish I had known a bit more about the relationship Heather and Tatiana formed. It seemed like they grew fond of each other, at least that’s what we are told, but we never really got shown much instead of just told. While I really loved the Tatiana of the past, I could not really tell who she was in the present, even though I could tell she felt comfortable with Heather.
The story itself was lovely, in both time periods. We find that Tatiana loved her parents dearly and that she particularly revelled in creating stories with her father. The one they were creating before he left featured sparrows, hence the title of the story. In present day, we can see that Heather is a warm woman who has lost people very dear to her and therefore can understand what Tatiana and her parents must be going through, which is not the case with her husband. That guy sure brought conflict and tension to the story. He comes across as someone who is very selfish, just wants to make a profit with the situation if possible, and refuses to see the returned as people. So this short story succeeds very well as a prequel to the novel, bringing to light the different ways people reacted to the returned. We already see glimpses of how the world is dealing with situation, through the media reports. Some folks gather in churches and the government has started creating facilities to process the returned, but it all seems very voluntary, people are not forced to do anything.
The narrative had a sense of closure for Tatiana and an open future for Heather in a sort of a bittersweet way, while everyone is still struggling to come to terms with these people returning from the dead. While so short, the story sure can be thought provoking. What would you do in their place? If you found a child you knew came back from the dead, would you take them in? Are these really people? Could a loved one be amongst them? How would you deal with such a reality?
At the end of the day, it’s a short story. Considering its size, I had a very good time listening to it and recommend it. Also, it’s free! Get it from audible by clicking here.
Listened to on April 12th, 2015