Laura McBride's ambitious debut novel, set in 2008-9, is composed of four first-person, present-tense narratives. Each main character calls Las Vegas home and has, directly or indirectly, been affected by the Iraq War. When tragedy brings them together in the novel's second half, all four have a rare opportunity to show great acts of courage. As the Emily Dickinson poem that provides the novel's epigraph and title intones, "We never know how high we are / Till we are called to rise; / And then, if we are true to plan, / Our statures touch the skies"
The first character we meet is Avis Gisselberg, 53. Once a casino worker and exotic dancer, she decides to introduce some romance into her declining marriage by delving into her lingerie. Bent over, nude, she is alarmed to find an old gun in the drawer. Her husband Jim chooses this rather compromising moment to tell ...
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