REVIEW: ‘We Are Called to Rise’ by Laura McBride : Kayla Dean, literary blogger

wearecalledtoriseWhat would you do if your life changed in a moment? We find out when four lives collide in Laura McBride’s debut novel We Are Called to Rise.

Told between the perspectives of four individuals, this compelling novel set in Las Vegas pulls you in from page one. When Avis, a fifty three year old housewife, wakes up to the shocking truth that her thirty year marriage is over, she has to face some hard truths. After spending the past year worried about her son, a returned soldier from Iraq, she questions his sanity when he joins the police force.

Bashkim, an eight year old boy, has parents who can’t adjust to American life, and barely make enough money to afford even the simplest things. When Bashkim writes to a wounded soldier for a school project, everything starts to change. But not everyone is sure that it’s for the best.

When Luis, a wounded soldier, receives Bashkim’s letter, he does the unthinkable. Now it will change his life forever. But will Luis’ bond with Bashkim restore past hurts?

Roberta, a woman who helps homeless teens, sees the dark hopelessness that pervades the lonely people of Las Vegas. And when a case lands on her desk that impacts two children, she knows she has the chance to change their lives for the better.

When all these lives converge, a story of sadness turns into one of hope.

McBride, a professor and local of Las Vegas, truly evokes the setting in a rich way. As a local myself, I can say that this is one of the most honest portrayals I have ever seen of Las Vegas. McBride’s vision of the city is one that exudes the transient nature of Las Vegas. She really brings out the abject setting of the poorer areas downtown, but also paints Las Vegas as a city of families. One of the most compelling moments in the novel is when McBride described the people of this city:

“[W]e didn’t look like a lot of other communities out there…We weren’t a community anyone would predict. That’s what we were trying to say in all those conversations about wanting to leave, but not wanting to leave each other. We lived in a misunderstood city, in a place that thrives only by convincing outsiders that it is something it is not…”

What really makes this novel strong is the multi-layered perspective of Las Vegas. Only a local could have written a novel so blazing with imagery of our desert city. McBride evokes the changes this city has gone through, from a place with cheap casinos and buffets, to a transient tourist city. Since this novel was written, I do think our city has undergone another evolution, from tourist capital to a sleek city, filled with dayclubs, nightclubs, restaurants, and pools, even further removed from our residential outskirts. However, the novel is an honest portrayal that depicts Las Vegas as more than the City of Sin.

The absolute best part of this novel was the addictive power of McBride’s words. The author’s look at human nature is honest and relatable. Also, McBride knows how to balance her narrative voices and make them all sound distinct from one another. In one chapter, a fifty three year-old woman would narrate the story, but in the next, we would hear from an eight year-old boy.

McBride somehow steps into the skin of her diverse cast of characters and shows us their differences. When reading Bashkim’s story, I believed that the words could actually come from an eight year-old.

Read this book if you want to read a story of hope against odds that shows that people really can rise up against difficulty. We Are Called To Rise is emotional and sad, but the book will take you on a journey to hope.

Kayla Dean is a student and writer from sunny Las Vegas. When she isn’t writing, you can find her reading, or at the bookstore. Follow her on Twitter at @kayladeanwrites.

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