The Return by Rachel Harrison was touted as one of the most anticipated debuts of 2020, and having read it, I can understand why. It’s fascinating, draws you in, but I’m still really confused about how I would classify the book. It’s like…Ruth Ware meets gore and horror. There’s dead bodies and falling out teeth and weird friendship vibes and a weekend at a weird hotel.
Julie is missing. That’s what Elise is told by her friends Mae and Molly, who assume the worst. Julie went hiking, she’s missing, she’s presumed dead. But Elise doesn’t believe she’s dead. Two years go by, and everyone pretty much gives up hope. They hold a funeral. Then, two days to the day, Julie returns to her front porch. And that’s just chapter one. She says she doesn’t remember, and they take her at that. To celebrate Julie’s return and get the old crew together again, Mae, Molly, Elise, and Julie go to a nice, boutique kind of hotel where every room is themed it’s very nice, ya know? Not big, but nice. But then weird stuff starts to happen. Elise, our protagonist, notices that Julie is different. Then, she starts seeing weird stuff around the hotel, as the rain pours down around them. What happened to Julie while she was gone? And will they all get out of the hotel alive?
This book was odd, in that I really enjoyed it, and I don’t usually enjoy horror, but I was also often looking for a second meaning in things. I kind of suspected what was happening—you’re supposed to–but seeing it unfold was fascinating. The chapters are long, Elise is an interesting, slightly unreliable narrator, and I thought the friend dynamic was great to read about. Overall, a good read for me–4 stars, but I’m still not sure how to put into words what category this is. Friendship horror? Monsters and mishaps at hotels? Girls gone gore?