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Summary and book reviews of We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

We Are Called to Rise

A Novel

by Laura McBride

We Are Called to Rise
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2015, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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About this Book

Book Summary

Three lives are bound together by a split-second mistake, and a child's fate hangs in the balance.

What happens next will test—and restore—your faith in humanity.

"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—"
(Emily Dickinson)

Beyond Las Vegas's casinos lies a boomtown where four lives can be brought together by one split-second choice.

In the predawn hours, a woman's marriage crumbles with a single confession. Across town, an immigrant family struggles to fit in and get by in the land of opportunity. Three thousand miles away, a soldier wakes up in Walter Reed hospital with the vague feeling that he's done something awful. In a single moment, these disparate lives intersect. Faced with seemingly insurmountable loss, each person must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise.

We Are Called to Rise is a story about a child's fate. It is a story about families—the ones we have and the ones we make. It challenges us to think about our responsibilities to each other and reminds us that compassion and charity can rescue us, even in our darkest moment. It is a book that will break your heart and then put it back together.

1

Avis

THERE WAS A YEAR of no desire. I don't know why. Margo said I was depressed; Jill thought it was "the change." That phrase made me laugh. I didn't think I was depressed. I still grinned when I saw the roadrunner waiting to join me on my morning walk. I still stopped to look at the sky when fat clouds piled up against the blue, or in the evenings when it streaked orange and purple in the west. Those moments did not feel like depression.

But I didn't desire my husband, and there was no certain reason for it, and as the months went by, the distance between us grew. I tried to talk myself out of this, but my body would not comply. Finally, I decided to rely on what in my case would be mother wisdom, or as Sharlene would say, "to fake it till you make it."

That night, I eased myself out of bed carefully, not wanting to fully wake Jim. I had grown up in Las Vegas, grown up seeing women prance around in sparkling underwear, learned how to do the same prancing in the same ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Which of the three main narrators—Bashkim, Avis, Luis, was the most effective?
  2. The setting, Las Vegas, is so pervasive it is almost a character in its own right. Talk about how the author uses the dry desert town as a backdrop and as an integral piece of the story. Discuss the juxtaposition of glamorous casinos with the ordinary suburban lives so many of the characters lead. How does the backdrop of the world of gambling, sex, and money impact the characters in their everyday lives? Do you think this story could have taken place anywhere else?
  3. The landscape of Nevada is compared several times to that of Iraq and Afghanistan. What other connections do you see between the Western state and the war zones of the East that affect so ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

One of McBride's chief skills is creating distinct voices. The narrative reveals each character's age, class, and experiences. Unfortunately, I found the ways in which the characters connect and recover to be somewhat predictable, and at times tedious in the telling. For the most part, though, I was able to put my cynicism aside and appreciate the way the author finds meaning in misfortune.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review Members Only (784 words).

Media Reviews

Houston Chronicle

The lives of four Las Vegas families collide, reminding us all that every act--no matter how insignificant it might seem--matters. You'll be thinking about these characters long after you finish this haunting, heart-wrenching and hopeful book.

Entertainment Weekly

Stirring...pitch-perfect...a universal story about the messy wonders of community. A-

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Rarely does a novel reach into my soul and leave me sobbing, but We Are Called to Rise did just that with its beautifully drawn characters, true-to-life plot, and such exquisite writing that it's hard to believe that this is Laura McBride's first book....a graceful portrait of our time.

Booklist

A tour de force of imagination that packs a wallop...immensely moving...without question, McBride is a truly commanding literary presence.

Publishers Weekly

McBride's characters are warm with pulsating vitality....it is a testament to the author's mature voice and storytelling talent that we are willing to take to heart the lessons her story offers.

Library Journal

Starred Review. McBride has written an urgent morality tale for our times in the form of this poignant and gripping debut.

Author Blurb Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters
Both tense and touching, intimate and global, Laura McBride's debut is a genuinely affecting story of innocence, resilience, and the surprising ties that connect us all. The characters' voices are so real, so raw and human, you will find yourself thinking of them long after you have turned the last page.

Author Blurb Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress
Here is the powerful story of the way in which war detonates far from battlefields, exploding lives in a single irrevocable moment. Here are unforgettable voices that need to be heard as urgently as this richly imagined story needs to be told. Like a solitary bell We Are Called to Rise reverberated long after I'd put it down. I can't stop thinking about it.

Author Blurb Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House
Laura McBride had me hooked on her novel by page two, the beginning of a roller coaster ride of emotions powered by her gorgeously strong writing. She took me to sorrow and despair and then to the heights of love and forgiveness, where we find our best selves. We are Called to Rise is a powerful, memorable achievement.

Author Blurb Vaddey Ratner author of In the Shadow of the Banyan
It's been a long time since I invested myself as a reader so thoroughly, so hopefully, in a character as I did for the small, young life at the center of this poignant narrative. Laura McBride writes with the foresight and compassion of the best storytellers. Her range of voices and perspectives is as impressive as her ability to plumb the depths of ordinary lives touched by extraordinary circumstances.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

We are called to rise
The opening scene in this novel was humorous, sad but humorous as well. I could really picture this happening, it was so realistic and vivid. Than everything got serious, pretty quickly. The novel is narrated by four different characters, the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Rise of Las Vegas

The story of Las Vegas's meteoric rise from desert backwater to world-class city provides the backdrop to Laura McBride's debut novel, We Are Called to Rise, in which four city residents' lives intersect in unpredictable ways. The characters have a wide range of opinions about their hometown. While Roberta and Bashkim love the bleak beauty of the Nevada desert and its wildlife, Avis and her friends often decry the disadvantages of living "in a town nicknamed Sin City, in a place most American families wouldn't dream of bringing their children, in a state where prostitution is legal and gambling is sacrosanct."

Retro Vegas The city of Las Vegas has only existed for a little over a century, since 1905, when 110 acres next to the Union Pacific ...

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