Megan Anderson writes:

This heartwarming story follows a young girl named Sara, who never gives up hope that her father will return from WWII despite the six years since his disappearance. She meets a young girl named Nathalie, who is a Jewish refugee, and the two of them become close friends. Nathalie’s father is still missing as well. When a new preacher comes to town named Emmett, the two of them begin to wonder if he is either Sara’s missing father or if his spirit was transferred into his body. The man looks remarkably like him, but does suffer from some facial scars, which make it hard to prove. Also, he has no memory of anything before Iwo Jima. Sara and Nathalie find a book about soul transference and start to wonder if this is in fact her father. Unfortunately, no one else wants to see the similarities between Emmett and Sara’s father and they begin to pressure her to let the situation drop and accept that her father is dead. Can Sara give up on her father? Will Emmett ever get his memory back?

This story is both historical and modern at the same time, which many readers will find refreshing. A lot of people like to read about WWII era stories, but Sorrell has managed to put a new and unexpected twist on this time period with her introduction of soul transference. She also does a nice job of developing all of the characters so that the reader can understand how each person feels in this difficult situation. The friendship between the two girls is pure and complex, which makes their actions believable and understandable. The story will draw in readers from the beginning and hold them until the end.

One of “Five Hot Reads”
-Suzanna Stouse, Book Editor, Times-Picayune, Sunday, February 13, 2011

“This a debut novel written by a woman who lives in my city. Excellent story about a young girl and her grandmother yearning for a loved one lost on Iwo Jima, and a young military chaplain trying to regain his life after being wounded in the war. Thought-provoking and touching- it should stimulate great discussion at our book club meeting next week!”

Leslie Bard writes:

First, The Returning, by Jean Sorrell, from Inkwater Press at, is a quietly intense psychological thriller and subtly revelatory historical novel.

Set in 1951 in Kansas city, it centers around 11-year-old Sara Johnson, whose father went missing in action on Iwo Jima. When a new minister comes to her church, a man who looks strikingly like her lost father and who was also at Iwo Jima, Sara begins to wonder about the theory of soul transference — a concept certainly not welcome in her church. Sara’s investigations spread ripples through her family, church and city, ripples reaching a climax during the worst flood of the century and a following fire.

The writing, in a lean spare style reminiscent of Hemingway, subtly changes voice to reveal the personalities of the various characters as the point-of-view shifts through them. The narrative flows as smoothly as the Missouri River, illuminating historical detail briefly but always with telling effect. Since this is the author’s first novel, it reveals an impressive talent.

1 Comment

  • By Sylvia Higginbotham, April 19, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

    Jean Sorrel has hit the mark with her first novel, The Returning. She has created a wonderful book that is exciting, mysterious, historical, and over all, outstanding. I hope it is the first of many. This writer is sure to have a superb future in the book-writing business. I applaud Jean for her originality.

    – Sylvia Higginbotham, Columbus, MS.

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