The Return by Rachel Harrison
Published: March 24, 2020 by Berkley
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Synopsis: 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.
Review: The synopsis of this book was just intriguing enough to make me pick up this book without actually giving me any idea what it would entail. I liked the idea of a girls trip that uncovers something sinister about what happened to their friend. I did not realize before I was reading it that there would be some horror aspects in this one. I figured that out while I was reading in bed at midnight, everyone else in the house sleeping soundly. Needless to say I did not sleep much and devoured this book in about 48 hours.
This book focuses on the friendship between four women; Mae, Molly, Elise and Julie. Two years ago, Julie went hiking and vanished. Mae and Molly presumed that Julie was dead when she had not surfaced after a year, but Elise never let go of the feeling that their friend was alive. On the second anniversary of when Julie disappeared, she is found by her husband sitting on their porch with no recollection of the last two years. Her friends all go out for a weekend getaway to reconnect. Everything is going fine, Julie is back and she’s acting just like herself. Except when she isn’t acting like herself. Elise is uneasy about her friend but also about the hotel itself, everything is setting her on edge. But it’s just her imagination right? Julie is still Julie, isn’t she?
Elise was the perfect narrating character. She was the closest to Julie and has felt left behind by her friends. She views herself as the hanger-on of the group. Her friends are all successful while she works a pathetic job and still lives in a studio apartment. She is sure they do not approve of her choices and probably talk about it amongst themselves when she leaves the room. She was so relieved when Julie was found because now the dynamic between the friends would be restored. I empathized with her and identified with a lot of her feelings of unworthiness and anxiety.
The plot was super creepy. It was set in a mismatched hotel that sets Elise on edge, and set me on edge too. The author did a very good job at playing on the fears and anxieties that plague all of us. How many times have we sworn that we saw a shadow moving in our peripheral vision? But then we look and nothing is there and we chide ourselves for being scared, we’re adults after all! Or how many times have we averted our eyes at the gap in the curtains, convinced that if we look someone will be standing there? No one ever is, but we all feel the thrill of fear in our gut just the same. That is the type of horror at play in this novel. I recommend reading it in daylight only.