We Are Called To Rise
Simon & Schuster
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AUS
Avis has made the bold move to bring passion back into her marriage – it’s been missing the last few years and she knows that’s mostly her fault. As she’s about to dress up in something nice to please her husband of over thirty years, he suddenly drops a bombshell on her: he’s in love with someone else and their marriage is over.
Bashkim is a young boy at school, the son of Albanian migrants. His father and mother work selling ice cream cones from a van. His father was a political prisoner in Albania and still struggles with the atrocities he saw and experienced and also with leaving his old country behind for his new country. Bashkim’s mother struggles too, with isolation, loneliness and depression. Bashkim is a smart child and even he at his young age has realised that his parents are different from others – he works hard not to ever need a parent-teacher conference with the principal because his knows his father will embarrass him, act differently to the other fathers.
In a military hospital in Washington, a soldier wakes up with the feeling that he’s done something truly terrible, something he doesn’t want to ever remember. As his broken body repairs itself, the doctors there also attempt to repair his mind, teasing out the memory that has buried itself deep down inside so that he can begin to move on.
These three situations are about to collide, brought together by a truly horrible tragedy that will change many lives forever. But in badness, there is also the potential for some good and the possibility that healing can be done together.
Every so often you read a book that captivates you and this was one of those for me. From the very first page, which is Avis making the decision to try and ‘bring sexy back’ after so many months of a lack of real closeness between her and her husband. Their only child is grown and has left home, has served overseas in the military and is now back in the US, working as a police officer. Avis has concerns about him, has perhaps had concerns about him for a long time and she prays that he will find a more peaceful existence back in the states. When her husband humiliates her as she’s naked and about to put on something nice for her, I felt for her! And my sympathy for Avis only grew, the further and further I got into the novel.
But as much as I sympathised and liked Avis, it was the story of Bashkim that captivated me truly. What a beautifully written character he was, so aware already of many different things, straddling two very different cultures. His parents grew up somewhere very different and in the case of his father, experienced horrific things. They eke out an existence selling ice creams from a van, often at children’s sporting events on the weekends. Bashkim already knows that his father’s often abrasive personality and lack of patience doesn’t lead to good sales, whereas his gentler mother always encourages the children to buy. Tragedy comes swiftly to Bashkim’s family and I found myself almost moved to tears for him and his younger sister. Laura McBride has written this family so well, she has nailed so much, including Bashkim’s father. He’s a tough man, he’s probably had to be and he’s one that doesn’t particularly leave a good first impression. But the more he appears, the more you get to know him, the more you see the deep love he has for his children, even if he’s perhaps not at ease showing it. And he proves this love by making what is perhaps, the ultimate sacrifice for their stability and happiness. I cannot imagine the sort of strength and sacrifice something like that takes.
Bashkim’s family are the glue that link the other narratives in this story with each other – Avis and her troubled son and crumbling marriage and the young military man named Luis who wakes up feeling like he’s done something truly terrible. Bashkim once wrote a letter to Luis as part of a scheme where children communicated with troops stationed overseas and Luis did him a terrible wrong in return, when he was in a very bad place. However once he learns of this, Luis does much to make it up to Bashkim and provides a real positive influence for his future.
Despite the fact that I loved this book and the characters within it, I do have to say that I’m not sure I was entirely convinced by the ending. Although I loved that Avis found the courage to do something that she needed to do, no matter the personal cost to her, I felt that for Bashkim and Luis, it seemed a little too neat and unlikely. I’m glad that it happened for both of them, but it just didn’t really sit with me as feeling very realistic. Everything else about the book impressed me enormously and I can’t wait to read another book from this author in the future.
Book #101 of 2014