We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
Each chapter of this book is told from a different point of view. Each character lives in Las Vegas and as the book unfolds, we learn how they all become connected.
Avis has spent her whole life in constant fear that something would happen to her beloved son, Nate. She lost daughter, Emily, at a very young age and it has a huge effect on the rest of her life. When the book opens, Avis is standing naked in front of her husband thinking of ways she can spice up their marriage when he tells her that he is in love with someone else. Avis is faced with the heartbreak of losing her house and her husband.
Avis had a rough childhood, living with a drunk mother who moved from one abusive relationship to another and moved into one run down hotel to another, sometimes even living in the back of a car. She has spent her whole life trying to not be anything like her mother.
Nate is Avis’s son. He recently came back from serving time in Iraq and has just begun his career as a police officer. His mother notices he isn’t quite right when he returns home from the war and his PTSD gets worse and worse until something tragic happens.
Bashkim is a young Albanian boy in Las Vegas. His father was put in an Albanian prison for protesting an act of the government. He applied for political asylum with the United States and his family was sent to live in Vegas. Bashkim’s mother is lonely in US. She misses her family and their homeland.
Bashkim’s father is often violent and angry. Bashkim worries a lot. He lives in a state of fear that he will get in trouble at school, which will get him into trouble with his father. As a school project, Bashkim begins writing letters to a soldier in Iraq.
Luis is Bashkim’s pen pal. After three years in Iraq (or hell as he called it) he shoots his own self in the head and winds up in the hospital instead of dead. He wanted more than anything to be a good soldier and make his grandmother, who raised him, proud of him. Luis blames himself for everything. He is full of anger and guilt and self-loathing. He lays in bed and wonders, “Will I ever be a man again? Will I always be this crippled fuck?” At 22 years old, Luis feels he has nothing left to hope for, he doesn’t know what to do with so much pain and failure and he has no idea what to do with his life if he’s not a soldier.
The letters he receives and writes to Bashkim begin to wake him up and bring him back around. They make him want to do something right. Bashkim really gives Luis the will to live again.
Roberta is a court appointed Special Advocate who takes her job very seriously. She puts all her heart in soul into her job and wants to make recommendations for the children she helps that she would make if the child were her own. She learns everything she can about each child so she can make the best decision possible for the future.
Las Vegas, in my opinion, is also a character in the book. “It’s not a small town anymore. For decades, people have been streaming in from all over the world, from every country on the planet; stateless people, desperate people, eager people, ambitious people. They came for easy work, the ability to pay someone off, for the chance to start over. They come because they are rich, they come because they are poor, and someday soon, all these hundreds of thousands, millions, of newcomers may even wipe clean the slate drawn by Vegas’s earliest dreamers.”
These three quotes sum up everything the book was about:
“Coincidences can be powerful. The strangest coincidences are opportunities.”
“Things happen to us that are more than we can take. And we break. We break for a moment, for a while. But that break is not who we are. It’s not the sum total of who we are.”
“One small thing changes everything. The tiniest act, the smallest space of time, the most inconsequential of decisions, changes a life. Whole lives are born out of the most fragile of happenstance.”