Monday, January 4, 2016

Book Review: We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

This was one of those Barnes and Noble Buy 2 get one free books. Is anyone else completely roped in by this BN ploy? Even if I have ZERO interest in every single book on the table, there is an almost 90% chance I am walking out with 3 - 6 books when they have this "sale" going on. I am such a sucker. There is really no reason for them to be my favorite major chain bookseller. But, alas, they are.

Here's the modified Goodreads summary:

"An immigrant boy whose family is struggling to assimilate. A middle-aged housewife coping with an imploding marriage and a troubled son. A social worker at home in the darker corners of Las Vegas. A wounded soldier recovering from an injury he can't remember getting. By the time we realize how these voices will connect, the impossible and perhaps the unbearable has already happened. "We Are Called to Rise" is a boomtown tale, in which the lives of people from different backgrounds and experiences collide in a stunning coincidence. When presented the opportunity to sink into despair, these characters rise. Through acts of remarkable charity and bravery, they rescue themselves. Emotionally powerful yet tender and intimate, "We Are Called to Rise "is a novel of redemption and unexpected love."
We are Called to Rise is a book told from the perspective of three people. The first is an 8- year- old boy you will fall in love with. He's Albanian- born and is walking that hard line - living with immigrant parents who are set in their ways and trying to seem like a regular American child. What struck me with his story was the realistic way that his American adults (teachers, principals, etc) are really trying to be helpful and support the family but keep missing the mark. Reminds me of Scout Finch's teacher trying to understand and relate to the poor families. Remember her? Classic poor cultural - relatedness. But DO NOT get me started on that.

The second voice is a man recovering in a hospital after a traumatic brain injury while serving in Iraq. He's trying to figure out how he got there, what happened to his army buddy, and what the hell he's going to do with his life. I love the relationship with his grandmother here and the relationship that he develops with his therapist.

The third voice is a stay- at- home mom who is questioning the choices she has made when her family starts to fall apart. After living her life for her family, she is struggling to figure out what is important in her life now. What has mattered? And that line when your children are "Adults" now but you still want to take care of things, still feel responsible, still remember them as children is another kind of tightrope balancing act.

A common thread between the characters is that each has been touched by war and trauma. Each is sharing their own experience that seems so different from the view point of those around them. Each is trying to figure out how to survive in their own head and do what needs to be done. Each has been feeling more and more out of control for a while and then regaining some footing.

This book is great for those who like when separate characters' live converge after a tragedy, for those who want a glimpse into some reality- based effects of traumatic experiences, for those who like horrible things with almost happy endings... almost happy, but definitely hopeful. It is beautifully written and the characters are well developed. It's touching and wonderful. You're sucked into the stories of the characters. Sometimes, when I know SOMETHING is going to happen, the initial chapters are just boring as I wait for the SOMETHING to happen. I didn't have that experience with this book. The pre- SOMETHING chapters were just as good as the after- SOMETHING chapters

Following the next picture (below) there's a spoiler. Scroll at your own risk.

I'm cynical. Yes. True. I work with children in the foster care and adoption system and I HATE when a plan is made for a child and he/she is not told about it until it happens. Sometimes, it's what needs to/ has to happen but I HATE it. I was pissed off on Bashkim's behalf that he walked into court and walked out with the expectation to live with a fricking stranger (who he is basically afraid of) and some random old lady. I do understand that there were many good things about the plan: siblings staying together, father living close and having parenting time, etc. I can only hope that there was a better transition plan in the works than was indicated in the story. And I must have a mental block about Mr. ShootemUp Avis's kid?! Did that wrap up and I forgot? His trauma was real, but I hate that guy. I'm glad the ruling about the death went the way it did, otherwise the "real" of the story would have been lost.

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