Julia Alvarez, most well known for her novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, has just released her latest work, a middle grade novel entitled Return to Sender. The reader, thru the eyes of both farm boy Tyler and migrant child Mari, is able to look at the issue to illegal immigration from both sides, getting a very personal story from each perspective.
Tyler's father, a farmer his entire life, has recently been injured in a tractor accident and is in danger of losing the farm. He can't afford to hire a lot of help and is unable to continue doing the daily work he is used to, resulting in a decision to employ a migrant family, moving them into a trailer on the family property and putting them to work in the fields and the barn.
Tyler isn't quite sure what to make of these new people living and working on his family's farm. He has always been taught that those who enter the United States illegally are wrong and should be in trouble with the law, but now his family is housing these people and giving them work. Though he is conflicted as to whether or not to like these people and continue to protest them or to accept them as they are, Tyler ends up connecting with Mari and learning a lot about why her family has come to the United States and the troubles they are constantly facing.
Through Mari's letters to her mother, who attempted to return to Mexico when Mari's grandmother got sick, but never made it and is still missing, we get a unique glimpse into the lives of a family that came to this country illegally. She doesn't like the fact that she isn't an American like Tyler, that her Uncle has been placed in jail for coming here without papers, but Mari knows they had no choice. The family is simply desperate and the opportunity for that in Mexico is much slimmer than in America.
Through the friendship of two unlikely kids, the reader gets a chance to better understand the reasons so many people emigrate illegally to the United States and even gain some sort of compassion and peace with it. A constant fear, on both sides of the story, of the police finding them out and Tyler's dad getting in trouble and Mari's family being deported.
I was, I must admit, a tad bit bored with this book. I have a hard time seeing kids of the 9-12 age sticking with this, as there isn't much adventure or intrigue. A lot of explaining and describing without a whole lot of action. And that's ok, that's just the type of book it is, however I did find the word "boring" entering my mind several times as I was reading.
To learn more or to purchase, click on the book cover above to link to Amazon.
Return to Sender
Middle grade fiction