The return is Rachel Harrison’s debut novel which I listened to on audiobook from my library. It is the story of four old college friends; Molly, Mae, Elise and Julie. Not long after getting married, Julie disappears without a trace during a hike and is eventually presumed dead. Elise, our narrator and the friend who is closest to Julie, does not believe she is dead. She is proven right when, two years after her disappearance, Julie appears back home with no apparent memory of her time away. Mae arranges a girls trip to a deeply quirky hotel and when the friends are together for the first time since the titular return, it’s very clear that Julie has changed in ways that can’t just be explained by her mysterious time away.
There’s a lot of things to like about this book. Harrison taps into the insecurities and jealousies that can crop up in long term friendships. Elise is the least financially successful of the foursome and often feels judged for past mistakes by her friends. The overall weirdness and wrongness of Julie creates increasing unease throughout the book. However there are also certain plot threads that seem to go nowhere. In the end I felt I had more questions about what happened than I had answers. I think if these loose ends had been tied up this could have been a truly great horror novel that also reflected female friendships.
Although I’d put this book in the “liked but didn’t love” category. I still think it’s an interesting read and the prose is pretty good. I’d definitely be willing to read the next thing Rachel Harrison writes to see if she’s worked out the kinks in her storytelling.