Emil Rice is a habitual thief, promising, each time he is caught, that he will never steal again. When he is arrested for the twenty-third time, he is ordered to carry out community service at a secure mental health facility, where he will have to live-in for a whole year. While he is there, he is befriended by two elderly female patients who have been waiting for the arrival of Emil for a long time having convinced themselves that he is the third wise man and that he will help them to find the Christ Child.
This is not the sort of book I would usually read but, as a fan of P J Tracy’s Monkeewrench series, and as the festive season is approaching, I thought I would venture into the unknown. What I found was an easy to read, humerous, short story that restores your faith in human nature.
Despite Emil being a career criminal, it is impossible not to like him and his carefree attitude. We are aware from the start that he has not had the happiest of childhoods and so, for much of his life, has been devoid of a conventional family. In some ways, he finally finds this at the facility, even if his new family consists of two elderly women who think he is one of the Magi! Underneath all of his bravado, Emil is an extremely caring man, a trait we see in his dealing with Ralph, another of the patients, and also when he embarks on his journey to ‘the City of David’.
Edith and Gloria, the two elderly women provide a comic touch to the book and although they are clearly deluded, their resourcefulness is a lesson in not to underestimate the aged. The way they take Emil under their wing is a joy to read, even if Emil does not always share their enthusiasm!
If you are looking for a short, heartwarming read, then Return of the Magi is the book for you!
With thanks to Net Galley and Penguin UK Michael Joseph for the ARC.