BIC Book Reviews – November 2014

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride

Laura McBride’s debut novel, We Are Called to Rise, showcases how the lives of people who are seemingly unrelated can suddenly become intimately intertwined. Set in Las Vegas, four characters – a middle aged woman, a fourth grade Albanian immigrant, a soldier fresh from the war in Iraq and a social worker – narrate the journey that ultimately brings them together in one tragic event.

“To always know how quickly life could change, how quickly everything important could disappear, to always be trying to feel this unexpectedly beautiful life to its core,” is the credo of this novel. McBride masterfully builds upon the joys, sorrows and hopes for the future of each individual character.

We Are Called to Rise includes themes our society so urgently needs to explore: PTSD among returning vets, abuse, marriage, immigration, and social services. We’ve marked this title as an excellent Common Reads selection – and particularly good for college students. The novel challenges readers to think about our responsibilities to each other, and reminds us that no matter how cruel life can be in a given moment, it is ultimately beautiful to live, and live fully.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

On a cold snowy night in Chechnya a young girl hides in the woods while she watches her home burn to the ground. Throughout the course of the following four days, the young girl becomes the connection between the neighbor that takes responsibility for her, the doctor who is running a hospital nearby, and everyone else involved in the tragic events this young girl is exposed to. As the tangled story unwinds, enduring love brings out both the best and worst in people.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena isMarra’s story of the tragedy of war and the human spirit that endures. He brings to light a piece of recent history and politics to the reader, while telling a story that everyone can relate to: one of love and community. “Love, she learned, could reduce its recipient to an essential thing, as important as food or shelter, whose presence is not only longed for but needed.”

Common Reads programs that choose A Constellation of Vital Phenomena can develop events around themes of war, family, socialism and the power of community ties. Marra’s visits to Chechnya, his in-depth research, and powerful stories on how he developed his novel, entice audiences and enhance his author visits

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