Return to Sender by Mindy S. Halleck
Mindy S. Halleck’s Return To Sender is a fast-paced, complicated story about Theodore “Theo” Riley, an Irish-born boxer and Korean war hero turned priest, who must face evil in the form of Genghis Hansel, a serial rapist, murderer, and pedophile, who believes he is on a mission from God. Father Riley is battling other demons as well. He is haunted by the sad-eyed Korean children whom he was unable to save as a prisoner of war, and the loss of his one true love, Andrea Bouvre, who abandoned him while he was serving his country. Theo is also tormented by his promise to his mother to become a priest, as penance for his gentle brother Kiernan’s death and Theo’s revenge on his brother’s killers, at the tender age of ten. Halleck tells a good story, and she builds up almost unbearable suspense over the course of the novel, culminating in a showdown between good and evil, during which Theo must face an unspeakable choice. There is no doubt that Halleck’s story will keep the reader enthralled.
This fast pace almost allows the reader to overlook a couple of drawbacks. First and foremost is Ms. Halleck’s use of stereotypes, especially in her portrayal of Solomon, Theo’s mentor, a wise Native American, who helps raise Theo after his family has immigrated to America. Solomon makes of Theo a true warrior, like Solomon himself. However, although Solomon is a likable and interesting character, he is one nevertheless based on stereotypes of Native Americans, namely the magical, mystical, environmentalist-before-it-was-trendy Indian, the noble savage, whose terse but beautiful wisdom can help save the white man from himself. This stereotyping bleeds over into the other non-white characters as well, such as the Korean Pearl and the Japanese Mrs. Wu, both of whom are filled with the mysticism and wisdom of the Orient in predictable ways. The other drawback is the few, but jarring, spelling errors, such as dye for die, kiddywampus for cattywampus, and tear ducks instead of tear ducts. Attention to these errors, especially a reevaluation of the unfortunate stereotypes at the heart of this novel, could make what is now only a good story into a great one.
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