Joella's Reviews > The Returning

The Returning by Christine Hinwood
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's review
May 29, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: yalsa-best-of-the-best, historical, young-adult
Read on May 24, 2012

** spoiler alert ** This was my 19th book for the YALSA's Best Books reading challenge.

I struggled with this book. And I will have to be careful as to who I recommend it to. I know it is a good book, but it wasn't a good book for me. If it wasn't for this challenge I don't know that I would have read this one.

So there are all sorts of characters in this book. Most of them come from a small village named Kayforl. It is a medieval type of time period. And there are soldiers who fight on foot and on horseback. There are castles and farmers and traditions that give it a historical flare. But it isn't tied to an actual historical place. Nor is the story tied to one particular person. Cam Attling is the only soldier from Kayforl to come home alive. Mostly because Kayforl was on the losing side of the war. There weren't that many survivors. But, there is a reason why Cam survived. It was because a Lord (and new heir) decided to save his life. But not his arm. Cam comes home without a right arm.

But the people of Kayforl are wondering why Cam came home and their loved ones didn't. They don't like that. It doesn't go easy for them. So bits of story are woven through all sorts of people in the village (both villagers and a couple of new people that come with the conquering). There are also a lot of deep subjects that are touched on: war, memories of war, how to survive after a war, how to deal with new people who conquered your land, how to deal with someone who shouldn't have come back from war, fitting in, family relationships, homosexuality, how to grow up when there has just been a war, abuse (doesn't go into detail but probably sexual), marriage, arranged marriage, betrayal, understanding, anger, treason, and learning to become your own person despite all the other themes mentioned in the book.

The book is a calmer, slower-paced book. The main point isn't the action (that all happened before the book ever started), it is what to do once the action is over. It is about how to put your life together after the action. So it makes sense that it is a slower book. I also think it fit that there were so many characters. War takes its toll on everyone, not just the people who went to war. Also, jumping from perspective to perspective helped it feel like one giant, jumbled up mess that had to be put together. Kind of like what it feels like after some major life-interruption (natural disasters, family trauma, war, etc.). Life changes people, all people. But they all react and change in different ways. The choppiness of jumping from one story to the next (and sometimes from one year to four years later) makes the story feel real in this way.

But that is also why it wouldn't be a book for everyone. If there are people who need action, this might not be the book for them. If there are readers who like to follow one character and who would feel flustered if they missed the one sentence that tells it is now four years later, this might not be the book for them. If there are readers who don't like the idea of ten pages before the ending having a sex scene when the rest of the book just eluded to it (it didn't go over the sexual abuse...just that it happened or it didn't to over what happened after marriage...just that later there were two children), then this is not the book for that reader. It is a good book. I can see why it is a good book. But the scene ten pages from the end of the book bothered me.

The tone of what happened to these characters was always subtle and disjointed. Then at the end it wasn't just a book about what happened and how people are dealing with goes in to two characters having sex a couple of times in the last few pages. The first time it is a subtle mention that doesn't go into much detail...similar to the rest of the book. But then it does. And I know many readers who will not be okay with that. And the crazy thing is it isn't about the war or whatnot. It is the part where everyone is finally starting to find their lives again afterward. When life is better in the lives of the characters, that was when the details were too much for me. And I found that disjointed and ironic.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Raina (new)

Raina It sounds like it might be a good fit for military families, in that it covers military trauma but is taken out of contemporary space? What do you think?

Joella Yes, that was my first thought. Only if they are okay with the sex scene at the end.

message 3: by Raina (new)

Raina Cool, thanks. :)

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