Book Review: We Are Called To Rise, Laura McBride

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We Are Called to Rise tells the stories of four people – a woman in a crumbling marriage, a soldier waking up knowing he’s done something dreadful, a kindly social worker and a boy from an immigrant family.  These lives collide in one miserable incident, and it is ultimately a story about the boy’s fate.

This is an outstanding novel – a debut novel.  McBride gives an emotional tour de force, with tension on every page.  She gives us characters we care about, and captures their individual voices and actions to great skill.  It is the character of the boy, Bashkim, that moved me the most.  The simplicity and innocence of his view on life and his world is incredible writing.

We Are Called to Rise is loosely based on a real incident that took place in Las Vegas, where the book is set, and where Mc Bride is proud to call home.  The book is written in the first person, with multiple narratives as each of the characters takes a scene (it is very much imaginable as a film script).  These people are isolated from each other, and you wonder how their lives are going to be connected – and then you wish they weren’t.  The central point focuses on Las Vegas, as one by one the layers emerge as a spider’s web of threads form around the boy, Bashkim.

It is a book of many themes – loss, marriage, immigration, war, PTSD (with two veterans featured), families (the ones we have and the ones we make), domestic abuse, violence and sacrifice – in doing the right thing.  Despite this list of rather gritty themes, there are some joyous comic moments, like Avis’ (the woman who’s marriage is hitting the rocks) attempts to spice up her sex life.

I almost read the book in one sitting, one Saturday evening, but did not want to rush the end in the small hours.  That night I dreamt of Bashkim, and how I might rescue him and of Luis, the soldier, and how he might turn out.  The ending of We Are Called To Rise was powerful.  It made me cry – and very few books do this to me.

I highly recommend this book – above all others reviewed recently!

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