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THE RETURNING by Christine Hinwood Kirkus Star

THE RETURNING

By Christine Hinwood

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3528-6
Publisher: Dial

A riveting examination of war and its effects set in a nonmagical alternative past. The war is over, but beyond the battlefields its impact is just starting to be felt. Like a stone cast in a pond, a father tells his daughter, “it’s thrown and done, but the ripples do take longer to spread and flatten. That’s what this is, the ripples.” Early chapters of this extraordinary debut (published in Australia as Bloodflower in 2009) are loosely connected vignettes focusing on the ripples farthest from the center: families on the losing side whose sons didn’t return, the one son—Cam—who did, refugees who arrive and move in. Gradually, readers are drawn back to the center, to those who waged and won the war. At the center are Cam and Gyaar, the victor’s son. The fateful choices of each drive the plot, but the details of how war changes everyone are what matters most. The losers’ village and social order are disrupted, but for some, like battered wife Ellaner and misfit Ban, change is oxygen. For the victors, change is more comfortable but equally unforeseen and uncontainable. Grounding the story are the closely observed characters and their world—vivid, flawed and immensely appealing. Like Margo Lanagan, Hinwood doesn’t trade in black-and-white moral absolutes but directs her attention, and ours, to the infinite shades of gray that lie between them. (Alternative historical fiction. 12 & up)