Book Review: Return to Sender – Julia Alvarez

Hardcover, 327 pages
Published January 13th 2009 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2009)

Blurb: After Tyler’s father is injured in a tractor accident, his family is forced to hire migrant Mexican workers to help save their Vermont farm from foreclosure. Tyler isn’t sure what to make of these workers. Are they undocumented? And what about the three daughters, particularly Mari, the oldest, who is proud of her Mexican heritage but also increasingly connected her American life. Her family lives in constant fear of being discovered by the authorities and sent back to the poverty they left behind in Mexico. Can Tyler and Mari find a way to be friends despite their differences?

In a novel full of hope, but no easy answers, Julia Alvarez weaves a beautiful and timely story that will stay with readers long after they finish it.

It’s been a while since I posted something here. It was hella busy for me at work and I didn’t have any access with my laptop for sometime. Anyway, I was at the National Book Store Book Blowout last February when I chanced up this book with an award sticker at the Children’s section. Apparently, the book is one of the two winners of the 2010 Americas Award for Children and Young Adult’s Literature. The awards sticker did catch my attention but more than anything, its blurb is what made me decide to grab it apart from it being on sale.

This story is a timely read especially with what’s happening with immigrants around the world particularly in the United States where immigration and border issues has become one of the focal discussions of the administration.

The story revolves around two families – a farming family and a migrant working family and the friendship that developed between Tyler, a Vermont farm boy and Mari, daughter of illegal immigrants and how this bond will push through the boundaries of their differences.

I loved the way the author took different approaches in telling the story through Tyler and Mari. We get two different point of views in two different styles. I loved how we get a closer glance via Mari’s letter and diary entries and then we have Tyler with his no-nonsense outlook about the faces illegal immigration. I loved that we get to see different perspectives leading us to understand more and be able to empathize with both sides.

I’m first to admit that what’s happening with the Mexican immigrants and immigrants around the world in general and tare things I only see on TV, hear on the news and mostly see online especially with the advent of social media, so I am just basing my opinions on what I see and what I feel towards the matter but in a way, this book made me realized that there’s more to it that we do not understand through the perspectives of the immigrants, on why they do the things they have to do, on why they do these ‘sacrifices.’ The story was quite heart wrenching at times but also hopeful. It tends to be a bit preachy but over all, I though it’s a good representation of what’s happening now. It is a lesson our young ones as well as the uninformed on how we’re all just human despite of our differences. This is an absolute-must read since it’s very timely and the resonance of the story will transcends race whether one is an immigrant or not.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About The Author
Julia Álvarez was born in New York City. Her parents moved back to the Dominican Republic when Álvarez was 3 months old and she was raised there until she was 10, when the family moved back to NYC.

She is currently writer-in-residence at Middlebury College and the owner of a coffee farm named Alta Gracia, near Jarabacoa in the mountains of the Dominican Republic. The farm hosts a school to teach local farmers and their families how to read and write.

Your Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.