Despite the holiday season and its many competing activities, we had a great turn out for the Nevada Reads discussion of We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride. We started at six to make sure we had some fun and socializing—with cookies, fruit, nuts, and holiday punch—and most everyone arrived for the early start! The room was filled with chatter and even during the discussion, we at times had competing discussions across the four tables!
Everyone seemed to like the book, even those who couldn’t attend; when we discussed how the conclusion was contrived and unlikely, the consensus seemed to be that the Hallmark ending was deserved, necessary. Sometimes we don’t want realistic; we want possibilities. This, of course, led to a discussion of the title, We Are Called to Rise, which was taken from an Emily Dickinson poem quoted at the beginning of the book. The narrators of the book were called to rise and they did!
This is an interesting concept for this particular book, because the core is based on an incident that really did occur in Henderson in 2008. Even though I know that most fiction is based on truth – people and experiences known by the author – changing this recognizable event seemed dangerous, unfair to the actual participants.
Yet for our group, the familiarity is the greatest strength of the novel. It is relatable; locations are recognizable; unlike CSI Las Vegas, street names are not changed. One member considers this the most honest story about Las Vegas she has ever read. Another believes the four narrators’ perspectives give it depth.
Beyond this core, we had some great observations. The broken marriage, lingerie drawer, and gun hooked us from the beginning. One patron brought to our attention how the healing power of touch runs throughout the story. We argued about whether Avis is weak or in denial about her abusive son. One member shared a story about her experience on a police ride-along to a territorial fight between ice cream trucks, including a gun, a knife, and the successful intervention of a young bystander. We discussed police abuse of power, including domestic violence; the effects of the loss of a child, still impacting Avis after 30 years and the impact it had on her son’s behavior—competing with a ghost; the isolation of immigrants; modern and former wars; children writing to soldiers.
We realized that we shouldn’t generalize, but our group is diverse and offers experience from years as parents, health care workers, educators, lawyers, and more. I hope all felt able to share their view. With such a large group, sometimes I wonder. If you have more to share, or would like to include something I missed, please join the discussion!
- Other works discussed:
- The Dinner by Herman Koch
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
- The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
I sturuggled with the multiple characters in this book. I was hooked by Avis and didn’t want to leave her perspective. However, i followed through and felt rewarded by a theme she promised. She wondered how people survive the unbearable and continue on. Her book suggests that everything in the wide would is linked and a bad, painful, even evil event can somehow be threaded to a good event. A soldier kills a child; his mother later adopts two children whose mother has been killed. A man who is bad husband and a harsh father is a loving father–contradiction, opposition, good and bad twine and comingle. It’s not cause and effect. It just is. Believing in or hoping for such ultimate good can ease suffering. If the ending seemed contrived, so be it. Many books I’ve been reading have such endings and I find that I welcome them. Orphan Train was one. I can’t recall other titles at the moment.
I apologize for the typo: “struggled” is what I intended in the first line of the earlier reply. I forgot to mention that the time shifts in individual sections were a challenge.
After reading your comments, I re-read the journal and realized how much I had forgotten about the book. It is definitely a brain exercise to stop and try to remember. Your comments are fresh and appreciated!