Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Return

Rate this book
An edgy and haunting debut novel about a group of friends who reunite after one of them has returned from a mysterious two-year disappearance.

Julie is missing, and the missing don't often return. But Elise knows Julie better than anyone, and she feels in her bones that her best friend is out there, and that one day she'll come back. She's right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she's been or what happened to her.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published March 24, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Rachel Harrison

6 books1,058 followers
Rachel Harrison is the author of The Return, nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Her short fiction has appeared in Guernica and Electric Lit. She lives in New York with her husband and their cat/overlord.

Librarian note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,573 (13%)
4 stars
3,510 (30%)
3 stars
3,968 (34%)
2 stars
1,808 (15%)
1 star
527 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,200 reviews
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,132 reviews39.3k followers
September 20, 2021

PATIENT NAME: Nilufer (we couldn’t get proper last name, she confused us with a waiter because she determinedly pointed the empty glass she held in her hand and shouted us to pour more Chardonnay)

SYMPTOMS: Cursing, punching on the walls, yelling, screaming “give my money back” and then she calms down and adds: “Oh thank God! This is ARC COPY! I didn’t pay for it” and she makes some undefinable, horrifying moves between caged animal’s banging their heads at the bars and jumpy cat who recently lost its tail. She defined this moves as her happy dance.

TREATMENT: We gave her “Shining”s signed copy and poured a big glass of wine to shout her up! And of course we stole her dancing shoes so she is not gonna scare the other unhappy readers ( We have a huge group stopped by lately who recently read “Testament” and they’re in big pain right now!!! Terribly sorry for big Handmaid’s Tale fans!)

Okay, this is me again! As you read my anxious reader patient report above, I had an unexpected hysterical book-down ( it was not a breakdown! I just want to put the book down forever and never want to read it again!) I’m disappointedly leaving my two stars on the table. (I felt like a town sheriff who is resigning, taking to her horse to the Old Town Road)

Here’s the thing! I love horror so much. I love ghost stories, supernatural, paranormal things because they make me stronger to deal with real life’s suffocating problems and entertain me so much ( I never claimed I’m a normal person but I’m not gonna sing “Creep” in my cover version and bleed your ears, don’t worry!)

But when it comes to this book:
I was so excited to read a new brilliant debut author’s work. And the cover is magnificent! The blurb is intriguing: Julie goes for a hike and disappears into thin air. Nobody knows where the hell she is. Three besties and newly husband are so worried (after one years later they arrange a ceremony for declaration of her death! Two of her friends start to see shrinks! Poor silly girls!)

But Elise, who has a special relationship with Julie never believes she is dead. And she is right. Julie is found at her house’s porch, in same clothes she wore when she disappeared. She has no idea about her lost two years.
So the besties arrange a trip at shabby version of Overlook located at Catskill Mountains (I don’t want to imagine this special place where too many legendary comedians perform their first acting experiences as horrifying place!)

So here’s my boiling points:
Julie came back! She is thinner! She had bad tooth. She looks the shell of herself! And surprisingly she loves meat so much! (It’s so strange right because before she disappeared she was a vegetarian. So she gathers her wits in two years, it is not a bad thing, right?)

All her friends have no common, talking like teenagers not nearly 30 years old people, keep saying “I love you’”s but they don’t have any idea why the hell they love each other so much are really worried about their friends. But they don’t ask what is going with her.
All the characters including best friend Elise are so boring, artificial. I still don’t understand the reason why Elise’s afraid of her own shadow. I thought she had a traumatic past but when I read the background story I found out she is a regular silly girl who made unreasonable choices and now she is penniless and suffering from Electra complex.
And why these four friends came to this tasteless, kitschy place? There is nothing out of ordinary with this place, instead of designing failures and creepy hotel crew! This is not Overlook! This is not even a creepy motel located in the middle nowhere. So I did’t understand the reasoning of the author to bring those girls to this place! They can go to cabin in the woods and it will be more effective place, fitting better with the story.
And the last point: I waited for a good conclusion and better satisfying ending. As you may understand that I’m still seething and eating a big bag of Doritos Poppin Jalapeno (they’re freaking delicious by the way) the ending didn’t work well with me!

Lately I read too many great thriller ARC COPIES (Like brilliant Sun Down Motel) so I was really expecting too much and so excited to read this book but you cannot find the winners every time. Let’s forget this book and move to the next one!

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group to share this ARC COPY in exchange my honest review. I wish I could enjoy it like the last thrillers I’ve read lately.

Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews154k followers
December 9, 2020

Just a little bit of fun - here's the link to an interview I did with Goodreads - all about the "IT" book of the summer!
I have read my way through 315 books to bring you my Top 10 Books of the Year (video) .

Now you know that this one made the cut, check out my video review to see the others!

(Ps. This one is technically going to be published next year but it was so good, I let it slide)

It was dread. It moved under my skin like a sickness.
Julie, Elise, Molly and Mae - best friends since college - did everything together. But, then they graduated, and spread across the country.

And they began drifting. That is, until Julie disappeared and a rift formed between the remaining three.

Their lives were so different and with Julie gone...nothing was the same.
You can't erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people.
Of the three, Elise was the only one who didn't think Julie was truly gone...and it turns out, she was right.
Two years to the day she went missing, Tristian found her sitting on the porch swing.
Julie is back - and other than a little malnutrition and memory loss - that's a cause for celebration.

The three girls are now four again, and they decide reunite in a luxurious hotel but right away - Molly, Mae and especially Elise notice that things seem off.

Julie is still Julie...except when she's not.

A symptom of being captive for two years? Or is there something else happening?

The hotel is beyond gorgeous but there's just something about it that makes Elise uneasy.

No matter how hard she tries to quell it.
There is nothing in the walls.
There is nothing in the bathroom.
There is nothing under my bed.
But what if...this isn't just something in her head? What if...it's been real all along?
Holy. F*ck.

It was good.

I couldn't sleep because I NEEDED to know what happened next...and then I couldn't sleep because I KNEW what happened....

I couldn't handle it.

In short, I don't think I will ever sleep again. On the plus side, that WILL give me lots of time to read Rachel Harrison's next book (which if it is even HALF as good as this one, will surely knock my socks off).

I absolutely loved how Harrison layered all those spooky elements - and how I couldn't tell fact from fiction.

Is there really something wrong with the hotel? With Julie? Or is Elise just freaking herself out?

I also loved the characters - they were so diverse and well-fleshed out. I really feel like I could have a conversation with any of them.

And (I know I keep circling back to this) - the plot was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I cannot remember the last time I felt my heart actually race as I read a book.

Ahhh. What am I going to do with my life now that this one is over!!

Requested an ARC of this one thanks to Tucker the Reader's review!

With thanks to Berkley Publishing and the author for sending a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

All quotes are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,421 reviews77.6k followers
February 25, 2020
I've come back to write this review three separate times now, and I think it's best if I keep this as brief as possible. The entire novel is a spoiler minefield, but ultimately this one didn't work well for me due to 2 reasons: 1) The first 250 pages are mostly repetitive dialogue between the four women, and at that, mostly talking about Julie behind her back, AKA "What's wrong with her?" This got old quickly, and caused me to want to skip ahead to where the suspense and possible action would occur. 2) The final 50 pages contained a twist that felt clunky and underdeveloped for me, but this wasn't due to the fact that The Return contains a very paranormal type of twist. If this one has caught your eye, whether due to the gorgeous cover or the synopsis listed above, I encourage you to try it for yourself, rather than letting my less than exceptional experience sway your opinion.

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,473 reviews9,394 followers
March 20, 2023

Elise, Julie, Mae and Molly have been best friends since college. As with many such relationships, as time goes by, the ladies have begun to drift apart.

This fabulous foursome all live in different places and it can be tough to stay close over such distances.

Two years ago, the unimaginable happened. Julie disappeared while on a solo hike in Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre belt of wilderness on the rustic coast of Maine.

Understandably, her friends were heartbroken. After a significant amount of time passed, with no sign of Julie, a funeral was held. In spite of this, Elise genuinely didn't believe Julie was gone.

Lo and behold, it seems Elise was right, as at some point after the funeral, Julie reemerges. She just shows up at home one day with no memory of where she had been or what had happened to her.

Everyone is stunned. There are so many unanswered questions. How had she survived? Where had she been?

After Julie has had some time to acclimate to being home, the women decide to gather for a reunion weekend at an up-and-coming boutique hotel in upstate New York.

All traveling separately, Elise, the narrator of our tale, is the first to arrive. She immediately feels disturbed by the eccentric hotel. The whole atmosphere is so bizarre.

Once all the women have arrived, they joke and laugh and try to make the best of their uncomfortable surroundings.

Luckily for them, they are the type of friends that no matter how much time has passed, they can pick right up where they left off, like they were never apart.

As the weekend rolls on however, they begin to notice that something is off with Julie.

As she begins to physically decay before their very eyes, the friends have to come to grips with the fact that something is seriously wrong. Considering Julie's odd behavior and appearance, not to mention the smell, none of them want to broach the topic with her.

They're scared, even though mostly, they won't admit it.

Well, I'll tell you, they weren't the only ones that were scared. This book had moments that legit creeped me out.

Even though the characters were mostly reprehensible, I loved the setting. It was reminiscent of a locked room mystery, as it was slowly revealed to the reader what was going on with Julie. Emphasis on slow, however.

The dynamic among the women was believable to me, especially as far as relationships go post-college.

The horror element was extremely unique. I have never read anything that went in the direction this ultimately went.

It did give me heavy Jennifer's Body vibes and I wouldn't be surprised if I found out this author had watched that movie more than once.

Although I can see where some people may be let down by the ending, for me, I didn't mind it.

At it's heart, this is really an examination of friendship, if you can believe that from a horror novel, but those friendship aspects tugged at my heartstrings a little bit.

I have no aspirations to ever write a novel, but if I did, it would probably be similar to this. Take from that what you will.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. It was a fantastic time!

I am really looking forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,585 followers
September 12, 2020

Many thanks to Elisha at Berkly Publishing Group for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
”’Don’t let the clock scare you,’ she says. ‘It’s only time.’”

If The Shining and Mean Girls had a baby, that baby would be The Return. Holy sh*t. You guys this book was truly one of the creepiest books I have read since Little Darlings . Nearly a week after reading this, I am still reeling. This book will forever leave a mark on my soul.

Elise - I know that there have been complaints about Elise as a character. I agree with these complaints. Kind of. She is definitely annoying but all the main characters are. Mostly, I was just generally okay with her. She did say something super relatable though…
...being alone in this city of millions of people was worse than being alone in my apartment.

In case it isn’t clear, Elise is saying that it sucks when you feel alone even when you’re surrounded by millions of people. Which is so, so true. I tend to feel the most lonely when I’m around other people.

Molly - I have absolutely nothing to say about this character. She, in my opinion, didn’t add anything to plot. She’s one of those characters that can be cut without any ill effect.

Mae - Mae is the human embodiment of light.

She was the only likable character in this novel. I think that was because the only character who wasn’t a selfish b*tch…

Also, here’s a random quote that I found super funny:
”’Everyone we know is too boring,’ says the lump of covers formerly known as Mae.”

Julie - Goddamn, I hated her. It’s really hard to talk about Julie without revealing anything because, as should be obvious by the synopsis, she is the main conflict and, in the end, plot twist. Let me just say that I hated her guts and we’ll leave it at that.

As I mentioned earlier, this book was absolutely terrifying. Once again, I want to avoid spoilers but the graphic details and underlying suspense in this novel were so well done. Every time I started to feel a bit bored, the author would throw in a scare or twist and I couldn’t help but read on. I read the last fourth of this on the drive home and when I got home, I had no memory of the roads or how long the drive was because I was completely, wholeheartedly engrossed in this.

The author did not hold back and it shows. This is the book that I could not read with the lights off. This is the book that will become a movie that I will definitely see and then be jittery for the next week.

Also, The Return was set in a hotel which is why I compared it to The Shining but don’t worry. This book is nothing close to it. In my opinion, it’s much better and so much creepier.

Overall, this book blew me away. It is slow at first but wait it out because the last one hundred pages move at breakneck speed with a chilling and terrifying ending.

Bottom Line:
4.5 Stars
Age Rating: [ R ]
Content Screening (Spoilers) - Educational Value (0/0) ~ Positive Messages (0/0) ~ Violence (5/5) - [Gore, bodily harm and horror, blood, sickness] ~ Sex (0/0) ~ Langauge (4/5) - [F**k, sh*t, b*tch, d*ck] ~ Drinking & Drugs (3/5) - [Wine, medicinal drugs]
Trigger and Content Warning - Loss of a loved one, Eating disorders, Anxiety, Body horror, Creepy themes and tones, horror throughout.
Reps: [None]
Cover: 3/5 ~ Characters: 4/5 ~ Plot: 5/5
Publication Date: March 24th, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Mystery/Horror
Blurb: ”Horrifying and creepy, The Return is a book that you won’t be able to stop reading.”


4.5 stars... holy sh*t... the last 100 pages....


the amnesia trope is one of my favorite tropes in the thriller genre. i have had nothing but success with it (We Were Liars, What Alice Forgot, etc.) so i am super, super excited!

| Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
February 5, 2022
”You can’t erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people.”

Jules goes missing and stays missing for two years, but then she reappears one day with no memory of what has happened to her over the past few years. Her best friends are unsure as to how to handle this stroke of good fortune. They had a funeral for her. They mourned her. They accepted that she was going to be a missing piece for the rest of their lives.

They can’t decide if they are more happy about her reappearance or more freaked out about it. It doesn’t help that Jules is in some ways the same Jules and in other ways not. It is like experiencing the vestiges of the past wrapped in dark forebodings of the future.

Mae, Molly, Elise, and Jules are all friends, but as always, with dynamics like this, there can only be one best friend, and it works out great if the same people find each other to be besties. Mae and Molly have always been closer, and so when Jules disappeared, Elise, who always felt that Jules was her BFF, became the wheel on an axle missing the other wheel. So either their relationship would have to evolve into an Estonian Nobe 100 or Elise was always going to feel like a teeter totter without someone to make her bounce.

So Mae books them all rooms in a themed room hotel out in the middle of nowhere where they will have a chance to rekindle the magic that has always made their relationship with each other so special. ”Sometimes when we’re all together, I get confused about who is who. Where one of us stops and the others start. We overlap, bleed together.” Maybe I’m just paranoid, but as they take me on a tour of this hotel, I start to feel creeped out, creeped out in a Stephen King sort of way. I’m grinning though because this has all the makings of a modern gothic extravaganza.

”I hear it again. It’s inside the walls. A knocking.
Pipes. It must be the pipes.”

Usually, it is the pipes or the building settling or something equally innocuous or at least we convince ourselves of that. God knows how many times I’ve woken in a hotel, in the dead of the night, sure that I’ve heard something sinister, only to roll over and go back to sleep. Somebody getting attacked in a hotel better scream bloody murder and more than once if they are going to rouse their fellow travellers.

I was a bit leery about spending almost 300 pages with four women in their late twenties. My mild fears never manifested themselves; other things manifested themselves, but I didn’t ever feel like I was missing important components of my physiology to read this book. There is only one man in the story, and he is kept off stage to be used as a minor character in the lead up to the grand reveal.

It doesn’t matter. Men aren’t needed. The women do a lovely job, just fine without interference from a swinging dick or two. The thing is, I actually really liked them. Rachel Harrison does a great job separating their characters and presenting them to us as individualistic, intelligent, and resourceful women. They are also snarky (love me some snarky) without being excessively cruel. ”We don’t share our feelings, at least not in-depth. Only when we’re hammered or desperate. We’re all repressed, and that’s how we like it. That’s part of why we are close. We have a mutual understanding.” In this age of confessing all to the world, it is refreshing to spend a weekend, albeit bizarre weekend, with some people who know how to carry their own water. Harrison also does not resort to having a character do something completely and utterly stupid to advance the plot. Thank you, Ms. Harrison, thank you very much. I loathe the dumb move concept in movies and books, even though I know as a species we are quite capable of doing completely moronic things when pressed to make decisions. If there are miscalculations by the characters in this book, it is simply out of true concern for another.

So the crux of this whole matter is that Jules is enough like Jules to pass as Jules, except to people who have held her under a microscope for years. Friends this close will notice any deviation, any unplucked eyebrow hair, any conversational misstep. What happened to Jules? Is Jules even Jules?

What the frill is going on?

And now you can’t possibly resist finding out what the frill is going on, and you won’t be disappointed. So come along with me and the gals on a little trip, and let’s all figure out together what exactly is going bump in the night.

I want to thank Berkley and Penguin Random House for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Michelle .
862 reviews1,224 followers
October 23, 2019
This was, uh, interesting?

Julie, Elise, Mae, and Molly have been lifelong best friends. Then one day they are told that Julie has gone missing while out on a hike in the Maine mountains. Mae and Molly succumb to their grief but Elise is sure that Julie isn't dead. She knows that Julie likes the attention too much so she holds out hope for her return.

Two years later and Julie does return with no memory of what happened over the last two years.

The four women decide that a weekend away will be the best way for them all to reunite. Mae knows of a quirky inn in the Catskills that will be the perfect place. Once they arrive at the mysterious inn they realize that this will be a strange weekend indeed with the obnoxiously themed decorated rooms and the less than friendly help. Once Julie arrives, late as usual, they realize again that the inn is the least of their problems because something about Julie isn't quite right. Something is different. Julie has changed.

I had a couple issues folks. Surprise, surprise.

First of all a good chunk of this book is really just these four ladies chatting with one another. Like, that is it. Actually it's mostly just three of them talking behind Julies back trying to figure out what's "off" about her. These women bored me to tears and if I had to hear "I'm sorry" or "I love you" (I'm heartless!) uttered out of any of the characters mouths again I was going to chuck my kindle. I wish I had taken note of each time "I'm sorry" or "I love you" was said during this book. Hundreds of times, I'd guess - this may be a slight exaggeration but only very slight. I couldn't understand the motivations of any of these people. None of it made sense. For women that claim to love each other so much they sure do tip toe around any issues with one another.

Next up for me to complain about was the Inn itself. So much was built up around the strangeness of the Inn for no apparent reason whatsoever that I can figure out because it plays no actual part in the plot. I kept thinking that maybe something supernatural was going on or that the staff was in on whatever was going on. Something? Anything? But, no. It's just a regular old Inn with really tacky taste and I found this to be a cheap trick by the author. What's the reason for building this up only to go NOWHERE with it? Such a huge letdown.

That cover is perfection but, sadly, the story between the pages could have been so much better. 2 stars!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Berkley for providing me a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,035 reviews3,556 followers
March 7, 2020
I’ve had my eye on this one for some time! I was fortunate to get my early copy and couldn’t wait to dive in. Early on I realized this is more than just your run of the mill thriller, maybe more along the lines of a horror. And if you’ve read any of my previous reviews you know I’m one big scaredy-cat!

What to do...what to do?💁🏻‍♀️ Call it quits early, avoiding any potential scaredy-cat trauma? Or, buck-up and jump in with both feet!
Because I coveted this book for so long the choice was simple. I kept going! Certainly plenty of parts that were super-creepy but I wouldn’t say they scared me. (Can I open my eyes now?)

A group of close friends who’ve known each other for years. As time has passed they’re now spread far and wide across the country, but they’ve committed to doing their best to stay connected. So what happens when one member of the group vanishes!?

Then two years later, she comes waltzing back into their lives. Claiming to have no memory of the time she disappeared. It’s at this point where it definitely takes on a major creep-factor!
You will need to suspend a great deal of believability for this to work. But if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary with a chilling quality, this is the book for you!

A buddy read with Susanne.

Thank you to Elisha at Berkley Publishing and Edelweiss for an ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Deanna .
655 reviews12.4k followers
December 19, 2019
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

I’m always intrigued by books that deal with missing people. This novel really caught my attention with its great cover and interesting description.

When Elise first hears that her best friend, Julie is missing, she doesn’t believe it. Elise, Julie, Mae, and Molly are all very close friends though Elise has always felt closer to Julie.

Days, weeks, then months pass…

Everyone else assumes Julie is dead, but Elise REFUSES to give up hope.

Then two years to the day she went missing, Julie returns. Unfortunately, she has no memory of what happened to her or where she’s been for the past two years.

A girl’s trip is planned so the four friends can have time to reconnect. When Elise, Julie, Mae, and Molly are all together, insecurities often come out. Elise knows you’re not supposed to be jealous of your friends but sometimes she can’t help it.

Elise can’t wait to see Julie but when she finally arrives, Elise can’t believe it. Julie looks awful. She is emaciated, her teeth are yellow, and her eyes are bloodshot. Elise, Mae and Molly all try to hide their shock at Julie’s appearance.

The friends are further shocked by what Julie does at dinner.

The Red Honey Inn is VERY secluded. With its creepy rooms and strange staff, weird things start happening.

Things are about to get even stranger….

Well! That was….different. A bizarre and creepy read!

I had a hard time connecting with this story. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and some of it just didn’t make sense to me. I’m not usually bothered when things are over the top but a few parts were too much for me. I was really grossed out at times and had to skip ahead. I thought about not finishing it, but another part of me really wanted to see how things turned out. I was also very confused by the ending. I felt so much was left unanswered.

However, it could just be me. I’ve seen that many other readers have really enjoyed this novel. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out as well for me.

I'd like to thank Berkley books for providing me with a copy of this novel. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Beverly.
785 reviews279 followers
November 5, 2020
Four college friends reunite after one goes missing

This had such an interesting premise, four friends reunite after one friend was missing without a trace for two years. Julie returns but looks horrible and says she doesn't remember anything about her disappearance. Her best friend Elise never thought she was missing in the first place. She thought Julie was hiding and would reappear, because she loves attention. Elise was right Ju!ie is not dead, but she is not herself either.

I was in it mostly throughout, even though I hated the two main characters of Julie and Elise. They are both so shallow and entitled. It is never explained why Elise is so insecure either.There was way too much description of a scary hotel that didn't really make a difference in the story either. Mae and Molly, the other friends were much better people and more grounded than the other two, but had their own foibles. The final reveal was so weird and made no sense. I really was disappointed and disheartened at the bizarre ending.
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
2,011 reviews15.7k followers
March 31, 2020
Over the top, campy, cheesy, gruesome, crazy, entertaining. This book was like a bad horror movie that you watch over and over and over again because you are just so Hooked. SO once upon a time there were four friends Elise, Mae, Molly, and Julie. The girls met in college and formed an unbreakable bond. When Julie goes missing they are all devastated, where is their Bestie? A year after Julie goes missing her husband Tristan holds a memorial, but Elise is not convinced that Julie is dead. Been two years to the day after Julie goes missing she shows up again on the porch swing wearing the same clothes she went missing in. Julie seems to have come out of this mostly unscathed but she cannot remember where she was. The besties are all so excited and plan a girls weekend at a Hotel in the Catskills. What follows is a very interesting tale. Is the hotel haunted? Is Julie possessed? Has Elise gone crazy?

This book is not going to work for everybody. It is not a thriller this is horror with a campy vibe. Some parts were a little gruesome, some parts were a little unbelievable, and a lot of parts were over the top. You may never look at meat the same way again. A tacky hotel, a group of friends, and things going bump in the night. I may never figure out if I liked this book or not, but I do know it kept me entertained from cover to cover.

This book in emojis 😱 🥩 🦷 🥩 👭 🥩 🐷

*** Big thank you to Berkley for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
Profile Image for Norma.
551 reviews12k followers
April 10, 2020
Monotonous, menacing, & freaky!

This was one strange, different, and bizarre mystery/horror read that definitely kept me creepily absorbed in the storyline. I was a little bit grossed out at times and in the end it left me with a sour taste in my mouth and a permanently disgusted look on my face. I’m not sure if that is good or bad yet…..I’m still deliberating! 😜

It was a very readable, quick and easy read with some creepy horror elements to it that might make this an extremely appealing read for many readers.

That cover is so darn creepy and absolutely perfect though, its just too bad that the pages in between weren't just as perfect.

Thank you so much to Elisha at Berkley Publishing for my gifted copy to read!
March 23, 2020
Julie has been missing for two years and presumed dead, but now she has returned. Something doesn't seem right with Julie and what should be a happy reunion turns odd and scary when the friends getaway together at an isolate extravagant hotel.

The story starts off slow, and not much happens here for a while, and even though I was intrigued by the storyline, there wasn't much to keep me interested. I stuck in there, hoping it would get better. The first half of the story is all about the dynamics between the group of friends. There is a bit of dialogue between them, and well, I did feel it felt like a realistic conversation between friends. A lot of talking, not really anyone listening, so things get repeated often. I started to get frustrated with the repetitiveness, and I did more tapping my feet then wanting to turn the pages. It did make it easy to skim over the uninteresting parts.

The setting here missed the mark for me, and I didn't feel it became a character or had an eerier isolate feeling to created any tension to the story. It felt more odd and weird that did creep me out a bit.

Things take a turn towards some horror elements here, but instead of sending those chills up my spine, my eyes were doing some rolling. This one wasn't for me but it is a readable and easy read with some creepy elements to it that might make it good for many readers.
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,259 reviews2,942 followers
January 10, 2020
Well, that took me on an unexpected journey. There's definitely some problems along the way, and I find myself agreeing with almost all of the criticisms I have read in other reviews. But when I finished the book, my overall feeling was I kinda liked it even if I'm not able to articulate exactly why.

Elise, Julie, Molly, and Mae have been friends since college. Julie has gone missing and well, we all know how those cases usually turn out. But Elise can't help but feel her friend is out there somewhere just waiting to be found. Guess what? Surprise! Elise returns two years after her disappearance and with no memory of the last few years. So what now? Well, the three women hope a getaway at a remote inn with Julie will help in getting some answers to what happened to her while she was gone. But it might prove difficult as it becomes apparent to the women Julie is not exactly the same person she was before she went missing.

I think this book had a solid premise and while the execution wasn't perfect, I will give points to the author for at least thinking outside the box. This wasn't a typical mystery or thriller, she did get a bit creative here which is something I appreciate as I am a huge reader and anytime I get the chance to read something unusual or different, I think it's a good thing. Having said that though, I do understand why some readers might find the storyline a disappointment.

One of the problems with the book is it feels like nothing significant happens for a very long time. It's basically four friends in a hotel with not much going on. This wasn't really a page turner of a story until the end. Another issue I had was remembering who was who when it came to Molly and Mae. When you are reading a story about four friends and two of them basically blend into one another for most of the book, that's not a good thing. I would have loved more character development there and with Elise as well.

But like I mentioned before, I did like this book even with all of the things that drove me nuts. Is this a book for everyone? No, but if you are in the mood for something a bit different, consider giving this one a look.

Thank you to Berkley for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,157 reviews36.5k followers
March 8, 2020
2.5 Stars

Besties since college, Julie, Elise, Mae and Molly have always kept in touch. When Julie goes missing, everything changes. Elise is the only one who holds out hope for her return, even after a few years go by.

Then it happens. Two years later. Julie returns out of the blue. Looking A LOT worse for wear, with absolutely no memory of what happened.

Deciding to have a girl’s weekend, the four go away to an Inn in the Catskills to reconnect. The Inn boasts rooms that are all quite different and ostentatious. Of course, no one gives a thought to the fact that they are the only ones staying for the weekend!

As soon as they reunite, they notice how different Julie is from the way she used to be.. and not in a good way.

All are quite worried about their best friend. Perhaps they should be scared instead.

They are trapped alone in an Inn after all.

But maybe that’s just me?!

“The Return” by Rachel Harrison is a mystery/horror novel that started out going in one direction and then took quite the turn. One I was not expecting and was not prepared for. If I had to describe this novel in one word, I would describe it as strange. It was wholly unexpected and threw me for a loop. In the end, I think this was the case of my being the wrong reader for this novel as there are a lot of reviewers out there who enjoyed this books’ twists and turns more than I did.

This was a buddy read with Kaceey.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and Rachel Harrison for the arc.

Published on Goodreads on 3.7.20.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
903 reviews776 followers
May 12, 2020
4.5 stars

I was NOT expecting this slim novel to be so awesome, so horror-based, and so suspenseful. Loved it. It would have been an automatic 5 stars, but some things didn't jive for me.

Suspense: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Setting: ★★★★★

Elise is told her best friend, Julie, went missing on a solo hiking trip. Two years go by, and Elise refuses to believe or accept that Julie's dead. She's sure Julie will turn up again, good as new.

Two years to the day that Julie disappears, she returns. She doesn't remember anything about her time missing, and things are...different. But Elise is ecstatic anyway—Julie came back.

To celebrate Julie's return, Elise and Julie's two other friends organize a girl's weekend at a lodge in the New England woods. The lodge is crazy wacky—think individually-themed rooms, Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton, and The Shining all in one—and the girls are immediately set up for a weird time.

But the lodge isn't the weird part. Julie is.

Something's wrong with Julie, and it might not be what Elise is expecting...

Wow. What a cool, unique, horrific debut. This clocks in at just under 200 pages, and I devoured it in one sitting. The suspense was killer—at any given moment, I was on pins and needles waiting for the next creepy thing, the next reveal. The girls' friendship dynamics were painfully raw, honest, and full of recognizable traits that I identified with from my own friends. The reveal, while easier to guess than others, was still well done and I loved the final climax.

The only thing that kept The Return from being an automatic 5 stars for me was the overall pacing. You can tell that this story had a killer hook and good suspense, but due to the lack of a side-plot or believable red herrings its pacing suffered. Lots of dialogue-based scenes and not enough significant action. However, as the suspense was done SO well, this was relatively easy to ignore. It would have been a much bigger problem if this novel had been longer.

Thank you to Berkley via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

Blog | Instagram
Profile Image for chantalsbookstuff.
423 reviews221 followers
July 6, 2022
A little too much humour to get that thriller aspect across. There was some creepy moments but nothing that really gives you chills. I kept waiting for a twist or a jaw dropping moment, but it just fell short.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,415 reviews7,425 followers
February 6, 2020
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

3.5 Stars

I read this book in December. And then I lost it in my car. Which is a Fiat . . . . . .

Why do I tell you guys stuff like this? My husband should have zero problems having me committed with all of these embarrassing confessions out there in writing. Actually he won’t even have to worry about it after that fucking Google ad during the Super Bowl . . . .

*drinks gallon of antifreeze due to inability to stop crying ever*

Anyway, so I was lucky enough to get an advance of this book, read it a billion years ago, lost it in a car that is about the same size as a shoe and am now finally posting this. And guess what? I just took a look at the cover and noticed that it doesn’t come out until March so . . . . .

The Return doesn’t seem to be a big hit with my Goodreads friends, but I dug it. The premise is a reunion of four old friends at a quirky inn. The twist is they are getting together after one of them was “disappeared” for two years. You see, Julie went hiking and never came back. Two years to the day she went missing she was found on her own front porch. Her pals Elise, Molly and Mae get the gang back together in order to help Julie as much as they can dealing with her return. But Julie isn’t the same. Is it a case of . . . .

Or something worse???

The creep factor here was on eleven and that was totally enjoyable. Plus, I always love a good “hens weekend” type of setting and watching the skeletons fall out of various closets. The dynamic of friend groups intrigues me and I don’t mind reading about people talking rather than nonstop action. Your mileage obviously may vary, but I think this would make for a great rainy-day read.

ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
1,677 reviews2 followers
March 25, 2020
THE RETURN is the first novel I have read by Rachel Harrison. To say that I was impressed is an understatement--this novel grabbed me from the start, and I didn't want to put it down until I had ALL the answers. Of course, that meant I was completely invested until the very end.

". . . being in this city of millions of people was worse than being alone in my apartment . . ."

We have a close group of friends--Elise, Julie, Mae, and Molly--each now in their respective careers/locations, but still connected to each other. When the only married woman, Julie, disappears suddenly, her loss is immediately felt by the others. The only ones who refuse to believe she's dead are her "best friend", Elise, and Julie's husband, Tristan.

Then, two years later, she returns with no memory of her lost time.

"Two years to the day she went missing, Tristan found her sitting on the porch swing . . . "

There were so many aspects I really enjoyed about this story. The primary one being the dynamics between the four friends. Despite their differences, their past has bound them closer than any family ties ever could. They know more about each other--and accept themselves, faults and all--better than anyone else in their lives.

". . . You can't erase your past when there are pieces of it scattered inside other people."

When they reunite at a remote, "quirky themed" inn after Julie's reappearance, the relationships, personalities, and comedic banter really shine through. Through it all, the fact that Julie is . . . "off" . . . in so many ways continues to gnaw away at the other characters and readers, alike.

"We're all getting used to each other again . . . Not to mention we had a funeral for Julie, and now she's here . . ."

While it becomes more and more apparent that something is seriously "wrong" with Julie, other events are happening in the inn that intensify the feeling of apprehension and dread for whatever the inevitable outcome will bring to light.

All the while the atmosphere is changing, bringing with it more sinister undercurrents, the emotions and bonds between the friends is becoming more clear to the reader. This, the psychological aspect, is what captivated my attention the most. It was like being given a private window into the thoughts and feelings of others. I can't express enough how well accomplished this was, and how it drew me so much closer to these characters.

. . . The more you love someone . . . it's easier for them to hurt you . . . their love will inevitably fall short of your love."

Overall, this first novel for me from Rachel Harrison instantly made me a fan. The only slight critique I had is that things seemed to slow down significantly around the half-way point when it focused exclusively on one character's past for a bit too long. Other than this, the writing style was very well paced, and the characters felt "alive" in a way that the readers can easily become attached to.

I haven't even touched on the ending and the differences in Julie--this is purposeful. I feel that to allude to anything more would potentially spoil the experience for others. This is a novel you simply need to experience first-hand.

". . . hurt turns to hate. To love someone is to hate them, a little bit. We hate everyone we really love . . . "

Highly recommended.

Our now: https://amzn.to/2Ued2NE
Profile Image for Michelle.
709 reviews81 followers
June 23, 2020
I’m currently stuck between 3-4 stars , but damn if I don’t feel like it deserves 4 stars based on the “creep” factor alone. This book reminded me so much of the movie “Jennifer’s Body” with Megan Fox & Amanda Seyfried, two of my favorite actresses out there. There’s most DEFINITELY something wrong with Julie but what?

This book follows 4 best friends: Mae, Molly, Elise and Julie aka “Jules.” There’s always that one friend who tries to bring everyone together ( I know because I do this in real life; I love camaraderie) and Jules is the common denominator between these girls. So when she goes missing for TWO years, no one including Julie’s husband, Tristan, knows what to do with themselves.

There’s absolutely NO way that someone could’ve taken her the friends all reason , “Julie wouldn’t have gone quietly. Julie would’ve screamed, thrashed around, bitten, scratched— gouged. Julie would’ve made things bloody. She wouldn’t have vanished without a trace. But she had.”

“At a year, their hope expired. They weren’t looking for a body, they were looking for bones.”

Imagine that someone you know and love is missing for over a year...do you host a funeral? A memorial? Do you instead hold out for some type of closure that may never come? I can’t imagine having to make a choice like this. It’s a terrifying thought.

And THEN suddenly as quickly as she left—she reappears, wearing the exact same clothes as when she disappeared two years previously. “She did not seem confused, or disoriented, but she had no memory of where she had been for the past 24 months. Her RETURN was National News.”

Julie- “ If don’t know what happened, how do I know it won’t happen again?”

Elise- “ This girl sitting across the table, inhaling a rare steak ISN’T my best friend. She’s a stranger.”

Mae arranges a getaway trip for all of them so that they can hopefully bond together again and be as close as they once were before Julie disappeared. But, when the foursome arrives at the hotel, the building is just as eerie as their friend’s new appearance.

“There are cars in the parking lot, but I see no other evidence of humans. It’s dead quiet...A witch will greet me at the lobby, lock me up and in a few days cook and eat me. It would be a ridiculous thought if the place didn’t look so other-worldly.”

Julie has a stench, she’s way too thin, she doesn’t speak the same or even move the same; there’s something about those teeth, too.

“ I can’t move because I can’t catch my breath, my lungs have forgotten how to breathe. She puts a bony hand on my shoulder...I’m not going to hurt you.”

This book is definitely not a thriller, it’s horror and grotesque and even at times funny. I recommend reading it based on entertainment alone. It’s beyond bizarre; quite dark.

“ I came back for you.”

4 stars.
Profile Image for Cortney -  The Bookworm Myrtle Beach.
807 reviews101 followers
December 18, 2019
I devoured (haha) this book in one day... Creepy, weird, and disturbing without being terrifying? That's totally my type of book! Very impressed with the fact this is a debut novel. Can't wait to see what else the author comes up with!
Profile Image for Rachel.
352 reviews156 followers
November 25, 2022
Creepy, funny, and pretty gross. I had a lot of fun reading this book!
Profile Image for Sadie Hartmann.
Author 23 books3,931 followers
February 2, 2022
(No star rating. Death to stars! Please just read the review)

I buddy read this with Daniel Kraus (The Living Dead, Blood Sugar, The Shape of Water)
and you can view our discussion here:
This is really a story about female friendships, toxicity in relationships, expectations placed on women, and the performative survival instincts women use to feel like they're measuring up to societal standards.
Rachel Harrison is carving out for herself this very specific, fiercely needed, corner of horror where the female experience is front and center. 2021's release, CACKLE is a great follow-up to THE RETURN, even though I read them in the reverse order.
I love Harrison's attention to detail--the clothing, hairstyles, setting...I get a strong sense of place and can visualize everything in a very movie-ready, cinematic way while I read.
The chapters are long, very long, which took some getting used to since most of the horror I'm reading these days is trending toward punchier, shorter chapters-but as Daniel mentions in the video, this book is a fast read due to the fact it's very dialogue-driven. The scenes do play out quickly with no lulls in the pacing.
I enjoyed the ambiguity of certain aspects of this story and how Harrison leaves some of the storyline open to interpretation from the reader. I think reading this with Daniel and then discussing it with him helped me to fill in some of the gaps that were missing for me.
A memorable reading experience for me. I will show up to all of Rachel Harrison's books.
Profile Image for Frank Phillips.
494 reviews245 followers
April 6, 2020
I absolutely loved this horror release! 4.4 Stars, rounded down. Any story that involves a group of friends going away to a resort where shortly after bad things begin happening will automatically catch my eye and this book had me captivated throughout. There was a heavy, atmospheric chill in the hotel, and the rooms felt as though there were a presence lurking in the shadows, watching over the girls as they slept. Oh little did they know! There were so many different scenarios in my head however I really didn't expect the ending on this one. Certainly hot a happy ending, which no horror book should have, IMO, but rather we were given a forlorn, cripplingly sad, with a sense of loss type of end. I really connected with our protagonist, Elise. If it had not been for the unresolved ending, it would have been a solid 5 Star for me. I could see this having a great adaption on the silver screen! When all is said this was an above-average read and I'm absolutely thrilled to read Harrison's follow up to this one!
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews392 followers
May 26, 2020
This interesting thing about this book is that there was a decent creep factor, but the excessive dialogue, flat characters, and slow pacing made it very hard to love. I don’t mind dialogue but this was painful, boring, and littered with nicknames that eventually grated on my nerves. Maebs?
2 stars
Profile Image for Em.
243 reviews50 followers
July 30, 2019
I read this in 24 hours - it would’ve been more like 10 hours if I hadn’t had to do obnoxious things like “sleep” and “go to work.” This is the breathtaking next step in commercial thrillers: tipping straight over into horror. The author nails the experience of the irrational fears you make up as an anxious woman in the grip of a quarter-life crisis, and flips them over into literal fears. This is also a book about the discomforts of female friendships. I loved it.

Read my full review and cover reveal here: https://jumpscares.substack.com/p/don...
Profile Image for Katie.
267 reviews3,827 followers
May 2, 2020
3.5/5 stars. My review is slightly biased because one of my favorite topics to read about is female friendship. I found some aspects of this book repetitive and unrealistic (not talking about the horror aspects), but I still deeply enjoyed this book. If you're picking this up JUST because you want a terrifying horror novel...it's not for you.

However, if you love reading about female friendship and want some creepy fun, I would recommend picking this up.
Profile Image for Carol.
2,325 reviews71 followers
October 8, 2021
The Return -Rachel Harrison
Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return-except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone. She feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She's right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she's been or what happened to her. Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong-she's emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who-or what-is she?

The story revolves around four good close friends.... Elise, Julie, Mae, and Molly. Each are now in their respective careers and locations, but still connected to each other. When the only married woman, Julie, disappears suddenly...her loss is of course immediately felt by the others...but it seems that the only one who refuses to believe that she's dead is her "best friend"...Elise, and Julie's husband, Tristan. Two years go by and “She’s BAACK” … minus her memory. ” Two years to the day she went missing, Tristan found her sitting on the porch swing . . . " just sitting there like it was any other day.” Through all the guesswork and no matter how much the friends want to welcome her back...you can’t get away from the fact that Julie is . . . "off" . . . in so many ways that will now continue to gnaw to the bone at the other characters...and to the reader. Goose bumps a plenty to go around and then some. "We're all getting used to each other again . . . Not to mention we had a funeral for Julie, and now she's here” . . .While it becomes more and more apparent that something is seriously "wrong", (to put it mildly), ...with Julie, other events start to happen that intensify the feeling of apprehension and dread for whatever the inevitable outcome will bring to light. All the while the atmosphere is changing... bringing with it more sinister undercurrents. The emotions and bonds between the friends are becoming clear to the reader. This...the psychological aspect... is what captivated my attention the most. It was like being given a private window into the thoughts and feelings of others. I can't express enough how well this was accomplished... and how it drew me so much closer to these characters. I haven't even touched on the ending and the differences in Julie...this is intentional, as I feel that to allude to anything more would potentially spoil the experience for other readers. This is a novel you simply need to experience for yourself. Oh... be sure that the lights are all on and the doors are locked.
Profile Image for Monica (crazy_4_books).
661 reviews115 followers
July 14, 2021
When I read THE RETURN the first time it was on kindle (which I don’t enjoy as much as reading books in physical form) and during a readathon (which is not an ideal situation, you’re reading as much as you can during a week and you cannot seem to stop and fully enjoy each book). I knew I had liked a lot, but because of the rush to get into the next book I flew throughout the ending without realizing what this book is really about. Underneath the horror/thriller tropes and gimmicks this book is about grief, it’s about a woman trying to come to terms with her best friend’s death and moving on. Elsie wished so hard her friend Julie would still be alive that she brought her back like a zombie from “The walking dead”. At the end she had to accept her friend is truly gone. I have to admit reading those last five pages I cried because I imagine myself losing my best friend, my “person”, and it would suck so much, I don’t even want to think about her dying. I said in my original review that I would buy myself a copy and re-read it, glad I did. Also, this Hodder UK paperback with different colors (blue, purple and yellow) on the cover is much better choice that the original one with too much pink. Any issues I had with the ending the first time they’re gone. This is a very underrated horror debut novel by a female author that needs more love. She’s coming up with a new book later this year called “Cackle”.

Original review (with some changes):
If you thought this is a thriller you were wrong. This is a horror debut novel written by a woman! If you want to support female horror writers please pick this one up, I got it for one dollar on kindle. I was hooked from the beginning and the tension build up is really good so I flew through the pages, but that ending though, I'm going to buy a physical copy in the future and re-read it. The premise is cool: Julie goes missing one day after she goes on a hike in a creepy forest. Her best friends, Elsie, never really accepts Julie died and she's never coming back. Her other two friends, Mae and Molly, try to convince her of the contrary. After a year, Julie's husband holds a memorial service since there's no body there's no funeral, to help everyone move on. Not Elsie though, she's always been obsessed with Julie's life and Julie herself, yeah, she's kind of "in love" with her BFF! Another year goes on and suddenly Julie is back from God knows where. And she's acting weird, doing creepy things, eating raw meat, loosing teeth and scaring the hell out of her husband. But she does not tell any of this to her friends because they haven't seen each other for over two years. So, Mae decides to organize a weekend getaway with Molly, Elsie and new found Julie to a hotel that looks weird as shit. The hotel creepy atmosphere is really good, I can see the comparisons with The Shinning. It's a small hotel with a few rooms and Mae says it's full but no guests are never seen around. Then, staff members start to disappear mysteriously, weird shadows and noises, all those typical gimmicks of a horror class B movie are all in. The pace is fast and the premise is catchy, it quickly moves to horror territory with gruesome scenes and lots of running for your life situations.
Plot/Setting: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Enjoyment: ★★★★★
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,200 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.