The Returning Hardcover – Apr 14 2011
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"A beautiful examination of the complexities of love and loyalty in the aftermath of war." -Megan Whalen Turner, author of The Thief, Newbery Honor winner
"I loved this novel. I cried through the whole last chapter from the sheer beauty of these characters and their world." -Melina Marchetta, author of Jellicoe Road, Printz Medal winner
About the Author
Christine Hinwood grew up in England, Australia, and America and currently lives in the UK. Her debut novel, The Returning, was a Printz Honor winner.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In some ways this book did not live up to expectations. Several times the plot builds up to an important point, a character takes a big step... and the author skips the actual event and just shows what happens after. (Here's an example: H has a confession to make to J. H dreads this quite a bit. H goes to find J. But in the next paragraph, the big conversation is over and after all this tension we only see the aftermath of H's revelation to J.) To me, that is an author's way of taking the easy way out.
Also several times in the novel, the storyline skips forward a few years without any indication. After some careful attention, it is easy to follow, but it has a disruptive affect on the reader - I had to take myself out of the story and realize, oh, it's skipped three years again!
But those are both minor points. The big disappointment for me was the inclusion of mildly explicit adult content in several places. I know that some people won't be bothered by that at all, but I am. One particularly empathetic character whom I loved becomes involved in an affair, which is quite a let down. But even then - why write everything? Why not just hint at what's going on? We don't need to know the details. It was all gratuitous and turns this otherwise mature, intelligent book into a something I can't recommend to my sisters or friends. One of the reasons I love Turner's novels is that while they are adult in style and comprehension, they are quite clean. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for this book. Christine Hinwood is writing another novel set in the same world as this. I sincerely hope that she will leave out the dirt this time, because I am willing to give her writing one more try.
Before Cam left, he was betrothed to Graceful Fenister, but her father breaks these ties because he wants his daughter to marry better. Graceful is crushed and wonders: If Cam Attling is the best the village has to offer, then who will I end up with? She can't help but think about what her future holds.
Meanwhile, Cam's own father won't let him help on the farm. A frustrated Cam feels like he's rotting away with no work to do. Thinking he doesn't belong in Kayforl anymore, he goes back to where his enemy lives. He seeks answers from the lord who maimed him, healed him and cared for him, wanting to know why his life was spared.
In a way, all of the characters live with the enemy. While language and cultures are different, they adapt. Lord Gyaar and Graceful unite two families from each warring side --- the Uplanders and the Downlanders. Cam becomes friends with the very person who severed his arm. He comments that his own people, the Downlanders, didn't show him the mercy that Lord Gyaar did.
Christine Hinwood has written a thought-provoking novel about the survivors of war. Her debut examines the relationships of families, the emotional displacement of surviving, and finding love in a changed world. When lives are altered after war, a community has to face those changes. Hinwood lets readers slip into another time and place, as the issue of belonging anchors us to the characters.
--- Reviewed by Kathleen M. Purcell
At home, he finds the townsfolk resent his surviving when other loved ones died. His family wants him to leave as they are embarrassed he came back alive while his engagement to Graceful Fenister ends ungracefully when she wants nothing to do with him. Cam leaves Kayforl for the second time in search of the Lord who spared him to learn why. On his quest for the truth he becomes friends with a boy and meets others like Diido who lost everything to the war.
This is an engaging novel that looks deeply at the impact of war on the returning vets and those in the home-front. The living must move on emotionally with what happened to their loved ones and yet must rebuild their devastated world in order to survive the ordeal. Although being an in depth character study including looking at villages like Kayforl limits the action and slows the pace deliberately as Christine Hinwood cleverly avoids dumbing down with her powerful tale that respects the middle school audience as intelligent caring readers.
Set in an unknown world, in an unknown time, Hinwood spins a tale of life after a great war. Aptly named The Returning, the author follows several narrators as they struggle to resume normalcy in a post-war homeland. Some of these narrators are returning soldiers, such as Cam Attling, who carries more than physical scars from his time in battle, but many are townspeople or family members of soldiers (both fallen and returning) who are coming to the realization that life can never be as it was, that each and every one of them is forever changed by the effects of this war.
As one who has never lived the life of a serviceman (or woman) or felt the pain of having a family member being called to action, I wondered initially whether or not I would be able to connect with this book on a personal level. Hinwood quickly absolved my concerns. By setting her war in a fictitious time and place, the reader is drawn into the sense that, "this could be me." Not targeting a specific war in the present or past, allows readers to focus solely on the human condition of recovery from the trauma of war. Without pinpointing factual events, Hinwood forces her readers to confront the realities of war from every angle of perception in a war-ravaged community, and likely every reader will identify with a situation in which they could see themselves.
Pick up this book, and discover a small glimpse of what the families of soldiers face in the aftermath of battle. Read about how life resumes, and how broken pieces can be put back together. Discern the actualities of a country ripped apart and slowly knitted back together. Certainly, this book will stick with you long after you've read it.
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