The Returned was a lyrical novel of past and present, life and death, and pain and remembrance. It wasn't a particularly great novel, but it told a pleasant story about death while maintaining a very positive outlook. It's a book about people suddenly returning from the dead -- no zombies or rot here; the people just show up alive like no time has passed, without much of an understanding of what's happened to them -- and just before its release, the author and publisher released a series of e-short-stories that looked at a few of the Returned.
What makes the stories intriguing is that they give us part of the story told from the points of view of the Returned. The novel didn't give us that perspective, so it's interesting to see how certain theories are either confirmed or denied through these stories. There's still not much in the way of answers -- thankfully, I should add -- but they do add a bit more to the world where the dead can return to life like nothing ever happened. I'm just not sure that it's necessary to see the world from the Returned's perspective.
Mott captured the reaction to the Returned well over the course of these stories. In "The First," he shows the reactions to people reacting to the very first person to Return, from the perspective of he who Returned. To him, all was normal; to everyone else, it was something terrible and horrifying. In "The Sparrow," Mott shows us how people view the Returned. Most people tend to look at them as people, but enough people also view them as things, as something not human. The couple featured in this story represent those viewpoints. In "The Choice," Mott shows us how the return of old, lost loves can disrupt lives.
Overall, though, the stories are about grief and regret. They're gentle stories, ones that give a touch of hope to those missed moments, and offer us a glimpse of what it would be like to get them back. They're touching, moving, and poignant, but what they add to the world of the Returned is small. The points that Mott makes through the themes of these stories are covered in The Returned, and save for one final summation at the end of the last story that wraps up the point of this brief series, there's not a lot new here.
I can't recall if any of these three Returned feature in the novel, but parts of the novel feature in the stories. As such, it makes me wonder if these stories are meant to be read before the novel, or after. I'm fine with having read them out of chronological order, and think that might be the intent.
Ultimately, people who read The Returned will probably get the most out of these books, but I don't consider them necessary. If you want to return to the world of The Returned, though, this is your best way to get there.