by Christine Hinwood
The Returning Introduction
In A Nutshell
Imagine being the only survivor of a catastrophic event. We're talking I am Legend-style, where no one is left but you. This is exactly what happens to Cam Attling in The Returning—or Bloodflower, as it is called outside of the United States—though there are people waiting for him at home.
So he should arrive to a hero's welcome, right? Not so much. Here's the problem: he's the only one to return from the war, so everyone is skeptical about how he survived when everyone else, well, died. Is he a traitor who bought his life by working for the enemy? Where has he been all this time? These are some of the many questions that surface when the guy shows his face again in his hometown after being gone for twelve years.
Christine Hinwood's first novel received a Michael L. Printz Honor for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. And while this is definitely a sign of awesomeness, it's also perhaps partly due to the fact that this book focuses on what happens after a war is over.
There are so many novels that talk about what it's like to fight on the front lines or be held captive during war, but Hinwood's 2009 book instead takes a good hard look at what looms beyond the fighting in her novel. The Returning shows us the aftermath of war—and though the physical fighting may be over, plenty of ugliness awaits.
Why Should I Care?
Chances are decent that if you are a sword-and-sorcery buff, you already want to check out The Returning. This book is cut from the same cloth as The Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft, and even Harry Potter. But if you don't own the complete works of Terry Pratchett, worry not—The Returning has lots for you tucked within its pages too.
Underneath all the medieval trappings and trimmings, The Returning is about what happens when an ordinary person goes to war. And given how often war is waged in modern society, this is a pretty relevant experience to hone in on. Cam, our main guy, does his best to push on in the worst of circumstances—both on the battlefield and once he comes home.
The Returning is also about what happens to families and villages torn apart by war once the battle is over, about the struggle to heal and find a new normal. This isn't a book that blazes with the glory of battle—it's a book that focuses on war's impact on human lives and communities. And given the fact that war doesn't seem like it's going anywhere anytime soon, this is pretty important stuff to think about.