When I was a Battle of the Books coach, I read Julia Alvarez’s book called Return to Sender. She calls herself a Dominican Republic writer, though she was born in New York City. Her native Dominican Republican parents took the family back to the DR when she was a small child and she spent the first ten years of her life there. So, she has the benefit of writing about both places.
In her book, Return to Sender, a Mexican family moves onto a dairy farm in Vermont. They are migrant workers and have been hired to assist the Vermont family after the father has had a tractor accident. The story is partially told through the eyes of Tyler who is in the sixth–grade. His family owns the farm. The migrant family, the Cruzes, include the father, his three girls and two uncles. The mother is noticeably absent from this family.
The oldest daughter, Mari and Tyler become friends. They are in the same classroom and they spend time looking at the stars at night through Tyler’s new telescope. Both Tyler and Mari simultaneously narrate the story. Mari’s portion is done through letters to her absent mother.
The reader discovers that a coyote, a person who assists Mexicans across the border, has kidnapped the mother. They want a ransom from the Cruz family and they go into crisis mode as they try to raise the money to free Mari’s mother.
Eventually Tyler loans them his savings and also travels with the family to the Carolinas to get the abused mother. Shortly after they bring her back, the farm is raided by immigrant officials and the parents are taken into custody. The operation was called ‘Return to Sender.’
This book had me on the edge of my seat. I was unaware of how much fear these undocumented workers deal with on a daily basis. It was educational for Tyler, for me and my students. The Cruz family came out okay later but this story was such an eye-opener.
Hats off to Ms. Julia Alvarez for writing such a riveting tale!
Lynn March 23, 2015