2 out of 4 stars
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Elvis Daniel’s parents named him after Elvis Presley. They also named his younger sister, Lisa Marie, after the Presley’s daughter. But the striking similarity between Mr. Daniels and Elvis Presley is that Daniels was born a little over half a century later on the exact same day and time as the musician. Though unlike Elvis, who rose to fame through his music, Daniels claim to fame was through the UFC fights encouraged by his Uncle Danny, a former professional boxer. In a strange twist of fate, Elvis Daniels and Elvis Presley’s worlds collide when a local reporter’s (John McCoy’s) increasing fixation with Elvis Presley’s death leads him to seek the Queen of Voodoo. Unfortunately, instead of receiving the answers to his questions, things go terribly wrong while summoning Elvis’s spirit. This unleashes untold chaos that results in several deaths. What will happen to the released spirit of Elvis Presley? Will the loved ones of those who died in the chaos ever learn what really happened to those they cared about?
Return to Sender by Amir Fathi is a work of fiction that follows the life of Jimmy, the first-person narrator, and his childhood best friend, Danny, and all those closely related to them, including friends. Readers get a look into the ups and downs of Elvis Daniels life, from birth up to the unleashing of Elvis Presley’s spirit into the physical world.
Although the book opens with the first-person narration, the story shifts from being told in first person to third person intermittently. The issue with this is that there isn’t a smooth nor a clear transition to indicate the shift in viewpoints. I noticed the constant change in narration when the first-person narrator, Jimmy, was suddenly being referred to in third person in the passages or when certain events of the story didn’t occur in his presence. It was a little confusing and seemed as though the author hadn’t decided on the type of narration to go with for the book. After reading the novel, I still was unable to understand why Jimmy had to be the first-person narrator because for a long while in the narrative, he wasn’t the main focus of the story.
For the most part in the beginning, it seemed that every chapter introduced different characters. At some point, this slowed down the pace of the story. Adding to that was the unnecessary and mundane details of the minor characters’ lives that followed. What’s worse is the plot suffered the same fate: there was a complete lack of focus, as the narrative seemed to jump from one place to another. And in attempting to blend multiple genres, the plot was stretched too thin, contributing to the already-dragging pace. On top of that, in some areas, the writing style leaned more toward telling than showing. When it came to the characters, I felt as though I was being told about them rather than getting to know who they were.
Even though there were good character descriptions, I felt that most of the characters lacked depth. While I could understand how some of the events in their lives impacted them, I couldn’t always figure out the motivations for their actions. A good example of this was with the character Heather, Elvis Daniels’ mother. At first, I sympathized with her predicament, but what she did next shocked me. I couldn’t comprehend why she did what she did. This made her one of the most unlikable characters in the book for me.
There were a few inconsistencies that I encountered. Earlier in the story, one of the characters is said to be an ambulance driver. Later on, when it’s convenient for the story, the character is said to have been a makeup artist for a theater in Memphis. Another character says that he and his love interest broke up after almost nineteen years but later nods to having shared fifteen years with her. These little discrepancies took me out of the story. In addition, the number of errors found indicated that the book needed additional editing. Some of these errors include typos, missing words, and missing punctuation marks.
The head-hopping and the issues discussed above leave me no choice but to rate this book a 2 out of 4 stars. I did not rate it 1 star because there were bits of the narrative that appeared to be well-written, and even though the plot lacked focus, there were parts of the story that held my attention. This read is suitable for a mature audience, as it contains detailed descriptions of violence. Despite the rating, I still feel that the author should revise the novel before I can recommend it. However, I’d only recommend this book if the summary interests you and you can overlook the flaws mentioned for a dose of the crime, the drama, and supernatural elements this book has to offer.
Return to sender
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