The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott
ISBN: 9780778316527 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781460330371 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781491536766 (audiobook – CD)
ASIN: B00IWTYWQY (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: MIRA

From critically acclaimed and New York Times bestselling author Jason Mott comes a spellbinding tale of love, sacrifice and the power of miracles. 

On an ordinary day, at an air show like that in any small town across the country, a plane crashes into a crowd of spectators, killing and injuring dozens. But when the dust clears, a thirteen-year-old girl named Ava is found huddled beneath a pocket of rubble with her best friend, Wash. He is injured and bleeding, and when Ava places her hands over him, his wounds miraculously disappear. Ava has a unique gift: she can heal others of their physical ailments. Until the air show tragedy, her gift was a secret. But now the whole world knows, and suddenly Ava is thrust into the spotlight. People from all over the globe begin flocking to her small town, looking for healing and eager to glimpse the wonder of a miracle. But Ava’s unusual ability comes at a great cost, her own health, and as she grows weaker with each healing, Ava begins searching for an escape. Wash agrees to help Ava, but little does she know he has his own secret he’s been harboring, and soon Ava finds herself having to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save the one she loves most.

Stone Temple, North Carolina is a typical small town, until one of their own returns home to participate in an air show and sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of two families. Ava Campbell was nothing special to anyone other than her family and friends until the day of the air show. After a horrific crash, Ava and Wash are trapped in a crumbling concrete silo. Wash is seriously injured and the only thing that comes to Ava’s mind is that she doesn’t want her friend to die. It is then that the miracle occurs and Ava, Wash, and Stone Temple will never be the same.

Ava and Wash have been best friends since they were five years old, and that feeling of closeness hasn’t changed now that they are thirteen. Both Ava and Wash have lived through the deaths of their mothers, and Ava knows that she can’t bear to lose anyone else in her life. Now that she is called a “miracle worker” and a “healer,” everyone wants to know how she did what she did to heal Wash. Many people have come to small Stone Temple expecting her to perform miracles for their loved ones. Scientists and physicians want to study Ava to learn how she performed her miracle. Religious leaders want her to join with them and celebrate her gift from God. Others simply want to be healed. What these people don’t know or seem to understand is that each time Ava performs a healing, her health is greatly compromised. After her initial healing of Wash, Ava lapsed into a coma for a few days. Now she’s losing weight, can’t get warm, and is throwing up bile and blood. How much responsibility do we have for others? Is it possible to give too much of ourselves in support of others? 

The Wonder of All Things is Jason Mott’s second novel and is just as wondrous and captivating as his first, The Returned. I found The Wonder of All Things to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. There aren’t any bad guys in the story, just horrible circumstances that force seemingly good people to place their wants and desires above all else. Ava is a typical thirteen-year-old. She’s coming to grips with her father’s remarriage and her stepmother’s pregnancy. Ava’s family lives in a small house, in desperate need of repair. Her father works as the town sheriff and her stepmother is a schoolteacher (I know shades of The Andy Griffith Show but it works). Her best friend Wash lives with his grandmother, and loves to read and sing. There are several smaller subplots at work within the major plot, including Ava’s dislike for her stepmother, Wash and a life-threatening diagnosis and the reappearance of his father, and a well-respected and famous television pastor and his younger, brain-damaged brother. The only people that don’t seem to expect anything of Ava now that she has these amazing healing abilities are her father, her best friend, and her best friend’s grandmother. There were moments in the story that I simply had to put the book down and walk away for a bit simply because it was becoming too sad for me to go on. The action of the story seems to take place over a few short weeks, but Mr. Mott has crammed a lot into those weeks (again, it works). If you’re looking for a story that deals with love and sacrifice, family drama, small town life, and miracles, then this is the book for you. If you’re simply looking for something a little different to read, then this is it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Wonder of All Things (even if it did make me cry) and look forward to reading more from this author.

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book 248; THE RETURNED Review

The Returned by Jason Mott
ISBN:  9780778315339 (hardcover)
ISBN:  9781459236639 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00ATMP806 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 27, 2013 
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time… Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

Mr. Mott attempts to answer the age-old question “what if you could talk to the deceased one last time” in The Returned. However that one last time lasts quite a bit longer than anyone could ever imagine. 

Harold and Lucille Hargrave are currently in their seventies and live a peaceful (relatively) life in rural North Carolina. They’ve been married for more than fifty years and mourning the tragic death of their son for fifty years. Jacob was celebrating his eighth birthday when he died in a tragic drowning accident. He’s been buried and mourned for decades. His parents are moving on with their lives until they begin to hear of “the returned.” They wonder what their reaction would be if Jacob were to return. Their hypothetical question becomes reality when an agent for the International Bureau of the Returned knocks on their door accompanied by their son, Jacob — still the same age as when he died, eight. Soon others from their town are returned. As more and more people “return” the government isn’t quite sure what to do with them. Before long, the International Bureau of the Returned and the US Government commandeer the town of Arcadia and begin to turn it into a camp for the “returned.” Harold refuses to leave his son in the camp alone and he quickly becomes a prisoner of these new internment camps. Regrettably, there are those that aren’t happy with the “returned” and see them as demons or devils. These factions begin to picket for the rights of the living vs. the returned and their actions slowly take a violent turn. 

Mr. Mott presents a unique story and it’s presented in such a way that it is impossible to judge the living or returned negatively. People want to know where these returned came from? Why aren’t they returning to the place of their death (Jacob returned to China before being relocated back to the US)? And then there’s the big question, why have they returned? These questions are left to the reader to answer. The Returned isn’t a true science-fiction or paranormal story, but a fantastically told contemporary story that deals with a slightly science-fiction or paranormal element. The “returned” are alive. They eat, drink, sleep, and bleed. This story presents an interesting view on life, death and how far some are willing to go to be with and protect their loved ones. It also raises some intriguing questions about life after death. The “returned” literally and figuratively turn the world upside down for the living. 

I found The Returned to be an engrossing read that captivated my attention from the very first word to the last. I actually read The Returned and its three prequels (The First, The Sparrow, and The Choice) in one sitting (yes, they are that good!). I found the characters to be very realistic and all-too human with their quirks and idiosyncrasies (loved Harold and Lucille). Although the subject matter may seem to be a bit far-reaching, it made quite an impact on me. Consider I read these more than two months ago and I can still vividly recall the characters, settings and action. If you’re looking for a well-written story that presents something a little different then look no further. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Mott in the future.

FYI: The Returned has been optioned and is the inspiration for a new television series. The series “Resurrection” is scheduled to air beginning March 2014 on ABC here in the US.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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