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We Are Called to Rise: A Novel Hardcover – June 3, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 410 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

McBride’s powerful debut is a tour de force of imagination that packs a wallop. She took a single real-life event and from it spun an immensely moving morality tale about how four vastly disparate people, each traveling his or her own road, all converge at an intersection of time and space to profound effect. Eight-year-old Albanian immigrant Bashkin Ahmeti writes a letter to an American GI in Iraq as part of a school pen-pal project. The reply he receives from Specialist Luis Rodriguez-Reyes, a native of Bashkin’s new hometown of Las Vegas, spirals into a vortex that pulls in every bad act, personal and international, that McBride can think of into one cataclysmic event. Fans of tales about the butterfly effect will be drawn to this novel, though some may object to McBride’s heavy hand at driving the point home too often and with over-the-top intensity. But, without question, McBride is a truly commanding literary presence, and her themes and characters, especially Bashkin, have good weight. --Donna Chavez


"Stirring...pitch-perfect...a universal story about the messy wonders of community. A-" (Entertainment Weekly)

"Your heart will break...then soar." (Redbook)

"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." (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

"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." (Houston Chronicle)

"With new books from Stephen King, Hilary Clinton and Lee Child, there will be plenty of competition for beach reading this summer, but the hot season's most intriguing new release might just be the debut novel by 53-year-old Laura McBride." (AARP.com)

"The consequences of war at home, and the possibility of community in our most atomized places, form the heart of a novel that's by turns hopeful and tragic, but never maudlin." (Vulture)

"Hauntingly timely...pitch-perfect...a plainspoken realism that beckons the reader along from page one...reminding us that courage and character are often writ large during the darkest of days." (BookPage)

"McBride has written an urgent morality tale for our times in the form of this poignant and gripping debut." (Library Journal, starred review)

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

"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." (Publishers Weekly)

“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.” (Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters)

"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." (Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress)

“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.” (Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House)

“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. This is a tender yet urgent entreaty not to scale impossible heights but to rise to the intimate challenge, and to call forth the love needed, to piece together a child’s shattered home and heart." (Vaddey Ratner author of In the Shadow of the Banyan)

“With this novel, Laura McBride dismantles the American dream. Set in Las Vegas, our most opulent nowhere, a long-running marriage collapses in a single moment. A boy’s family crumbles in a clash of cultures. Soldiers return from bad wars detonated—the pins pulled on their fragile minds. Still, they must all somehow move forward out of these losses, into futures for which they have no assembly instructions. Strength is simply their last available option, they’d rather not have to come up with it. And it is precisely this—the reluctance with which they become their best selves—that makes this such an emotionally powerful story.” (Carol Anshaw, author of Carry the One)

"Laura McBride's searing and expansive vision will hold you in its
grip from start to finish. Her Las Vegas characters outshine even the
glitz of that city in their fierce humanity." (V.V. Ganeshananthan author of Love Marriage)

"Succeeds brilliantly...one of the finest books of the year." (Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point)

"One of the best books I've read this year. It broke my heart and put it back together. It made me cry, and it gave me hope." (Nancy Thayer)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; F First Edition edition (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476738963
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476738963
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (410 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Before I get into the real review of this book, I need to tell you that rarely has a book come along that has moved me so much that I am consumed by it. WE ARE CALLED TO RISE has taken over my every thought for the last several days. The emotional attachment to the character of an eight year old boy named Bashkim is so strong that I struggled with finishing this book because that would mean saying goodbye. I'm still not ready to say goodbye; but, you deserve to know about this book and so, here it is.

Las Vegas, Sin City, Boomtown~~whatever you call it, its bright lights and loud noise and big times draw in millions of tourists; but on its outskirts it is also home to Avis, Bashkim, Luis and Roberta, four people who have never met but whose lives are about intersect.

Avis is fifty-three years old. She's been having a hard time feeling romantic with her husband, Jim. But tonight, she's going for it. She's going to seduce her husband.

"I’m in love with Darcy. We’ve been seeing each other for a while.” It was like the gun had gone off. There I was, naked, having just wagged my fifty-three-year-old ass, and there he was, somewhere behind me, knowing what I had been about to do, confessing to an affair with a woman in his office who was almost young enough to be our daughter."

Avis and Jim have been married for nearly all of their adult lives and that marriage is clearly on the rocks. They buried a young daughter named Emily and they raised a son named Nate. Nate is an Iraqi war veteran who after three tours has come home to join the local police force.

Bashkim just loves his teacher, Mrs. Monaghan. She wears pretty red shoes. For a class project, Mrs.
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Format: Hardcover
That's the title of Flannery O'Connor's last published work. I believe it applies to Laura McBride's stunning debut novel in that its four disparate characters, whose stories initially appear unrelated, rise off the page to converge plausibly and inevitably, like strands braided together in a rope. The risk taken here is major. Imagine if the reader found one or more of the voices less engaging than the others. She might think, "Oh, no, not this guy again," and skip ahead to the character's chapter whose voice she finds more charming, more immediate. That Ms. McBride dares to take this risk and succeeds is laudable. The sweet yet perceptive voice of eight-year-old Bashkim is one that resonates long after we've left the page; the long-suffering Avis, who attempts and does not always succeed to achieve an emotional balancing act throughout the book, is one we root for while thinking, "Oh, woman"; Luis, whose traumatizing experience in Iraq leaves him a physical and emotional cripple is someone we long to see transcend his woes and afflictions to become the man his Abuela has always known him to be; to complete the quadrumvirate (I've always wanted to use that word), Roberta adds to the storyline a kind of gravitas as she evokes Las Vegas in language that is beautifully poetic yet authentically recognizable, something we don't often get in today's Vegas-based novels. Roberta also serves as a kind of lynch-pin for the other characters. What I feel may be the book's main talent is its fearless approach to emotion. There is an aching quality in these pages which is hard to shake, but at the same time, devastating loss experienced by some of the characters leads to hope and salvation. To be more specific would be to give too much away; suffice to say I appreciate and value Ms.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover

On February 12, 2008, a tragedy occurred in Las Vegas. An Albanian-immigrant mother was shot and killed by a police officer during an otherwise routine traffic stop. She was standing beside her ice-cream truck when she was shot . . . and her children were standing with her. The facts of the case were strongly disputed (and the inquest itself was so confusing and improper that it was said to represent “a new low in the history of such proceedings”), but the officer was eventually exonerated.

This is the true story on which Laura McBride’s fictional book, We Are Called to Rise, is based. Deshira Selimaj’s real-life tragedy stuck with Laura McBride, so she used it as “a jumping-off point” for this book in which several unrelated characters are brought together unexpectedly by this terrible central event.

The book revolves mainly around three characters, with alternating chapters told in first person by each of them:

1) Avis: a middle-aged mother whose decades-long marriage is dissolving (her husband, an executive at MGM, is leaving her for a younger woman). She has one grown son, Nate, who did three tours in Iraq before returning to Las Vegas and becoming a police officer.
2) Bashkim: a smart eight-year-old whose Albanian-immigrant parents own an ice-cream truck.
3) Luis: a soldier who gets severely injured and ends up in a rehab hospital in DC.
There are also a few chapters told by Roberta, a native Las Vegan and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteer.

The book is about three-hundred pages long, but the characters’ stories don’t intersect until around page 175. There is a lot of exposition and character development before the big event (based on the true story) takes place.
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