We Are Called to Rise; Laura McBride
Simon & Schuster - 2014
We Are Called to Rise is an compelling debut novel that while sad, leaves the reader with hope and promise -- for humanity and about people doing the right thing.
The story is told in alternating voices by individuals although unrelated, who will see their lives gradually converge. Avis, one of the voices in this story, is a middle-aged woman who is trying to spice up her in the rut marriage, when her husband announces he is love with another woman. She also worries about her adult son who is a troubled man after serving time three tours of duty in Iraq. Luis is a key character, an Iraq vet who has been hardened and traumatized by spending time in front lines of war. Bashkim, another key character, is an eight year old boy who lives with his Albanian refugee family in Las Vegas. Lastly, Roberta is a lawyer and child/welfare advocate who, although she plays a smaller part in this story, has heartbreaking job dealing with abused children and the homeless.
When Bashkim, a third grader is given a writing assignment, he is given a penpal in the military. He is assigned Luis who is now at Walter Reed Army Hospital. His letter is sent off and when he receives a response from penpal Luis, no one is prepared for the shocking response he gets. It is this letter that sends the story in motion, and with each new chapter the tension builds and culminating in an explosive event.
Most of the characters in this story were ones that I cared about, Avis had a horrible childhood and then is dumped by her husband Jim for a younger woman. Bashkim, really drew at my heartstrings, in some ways he seemed more mature than his age, but in other ways he seemed very naive. His situation at home with his family was difficult. The vets and even lesser characters like teachers each played an important role in making this story as good as it was. Although we learn some terrible things as we we read, and I prefer to remain as oblivious as possible to the nitty gritty details of war, this story in many ways is bittersweet, and left me with an overall feeling of hope. A terrific debut novel.