First Sentence: Emil Rice was snuggled in the back seat of his mom’s car under a fuzzy blanket printed with Marvel Comics superheroes, watching the dark countryside roll by through the frosty window.
Emil Rice is a charming man and a very bad thief as he’s been caught 22 times. In fact, his parole officer, Harry Foster, runs a betting pool on how quickly Emil will be re-arrested. However, on Emil’s 23rd arrest the judge doesn’t send him back to jail but sentences him to community service at a secure mental health facility where he is befriended by Gloria and Edith, two elderly women who see Emil is the final piece of a life-changing plan.
For those who appreciate descriptions that provide a strong sense of place, Tracy satisfies that need—"It was a clear, bitter night—the kind that made your ears and eyes and teeth hurt—but the moon was full in the sky, with freckles of bright stars scattered around its happy face, smiling an apology for the brittle temperature.”
Beginning with Emil as a boy, all the characters are wonderful. Whether lead or supporting, they are fully developed. Yet it’s also a delight to watch them change and grow.
Tracy’s humor is subtle—“Gloria put the teddy bear by his head and pressed the Bible into his hands. ‘Read Matthew chapter two, verses one through eleven. Don’t bother to read John. We think he might have been just a little psychotic.’”—and balanced by the ability to convey emotion—“Foster clicked off and stared at his silly tree, the presents stacked along its green skirt of branches, and felt all the happiness leaking out of him.”
“The Return of the Magi” is an unexpectedly delightful story. It is not overly sentimental but does make one think of the stories by O. Henry. It warms one heart and makes one believe that there are always possibilities.
RETURN OF THE MAGI (Holiday Story-Emil Rice-Nevada-Contemp) - Ex
Tracy, P.J. – eBook Novella
Penguin – Nov, 2017