Monday, January 12, 2009

RETURN TO SENDER by Julia Alvarez

Tyler's family runs a dairy farm. Up until the sudden death of his grandfather and then his father's farming accident, things had been going well. Now that his older brother is leaving for college, there isn't enough help around to do all that needs doing on the farm.

Tyler returns from a visit to his aunt and uncle's to learn that some new folks have moved into the trailer next door. The new people include a Mexican man, his two brothers, and his three daughters. There seems to be some secret about their presence on the farm that Tyler doesn't understand. They have started helping with the milking and other chores and seem to be a big help for his father, however, his mother seems hesitant to reveal too much information about the family.

From comments around town and the little bit Tyler overhears from his parents' discussions, he finally realizes that they might actually be breaking the law. The new workers are in the US illegally. According to the information Tyler has gathered, not only could these new workers be arrested, but his parents could also be found guilty because they've hired the undocumented workers. Even though they seem to be saving the farm, they could bring more trouble than they are worth.

When school begins in September, Tyler learns that Mari the oldest daughter will be in his class. They begin talking and Tyler discovers that Mari is shy but friendly. As their friendship grows, he finds himself not thinking about her questionable status in his country; that is until she becomes the victim of several cruel bullies in his class. In his attempt to defend Mari, he and his family also become a target. Tyler experiences some difficult times as he struggles to understand loyalty to friends, family, and country.

RETURN TO SENDER presents a sympathetic view of the plight of illegal immigrants. It portrays their desire for a better life as well as the help they provide for struggling small farm owners. Though the issue is much more complicated, perhaps this book's message could give today's politicians something to think about.

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