Review by Ann McDonald
An immigrant boy whose family is struggling to assimilate. A middle-aged woman wrestling with an imploding marriage and a troubled son. A wounded soldier recovering from an injury he can’t remember getting. By the time we realize how these voices will connect, the impossible and perhaps the unbearable has already happened.
It’s been some time since the characters in a book reached out to me and drew me in. I was able to relate to these damaged souls, looking for redemption, a way to stand back up again but with great difficulty. The group of people who walk the pages of this book sound and feel authentic. They bring this story to life and I am amazed by author Laura McBride’s insight into the minds of the two damaged soldiers who return to Las Vegas to try and move on with their lives.
The story stars with Avis, a fifty-something housewife who realizes that her relationship with her husband Jim, is in big trouble. The morning she decides to do something about it, he interrupts her by asking her for a divorce as he has fallen in love with Darcy, a co-worker, whom he wants to marry. Avis is stunned and cannot comprehend this happening to her after almost thirty years or marriage. They had a daughter who died at a very early age and a son Nate.
Nate has just returned from the war and is married to Lauren and he plans on joining the L.A.P.D. Avis knows that there is something not right with Nate but doesn’t address it with him until later in the story. McBride weaves a skillful background for the family, past and present. Bashkim is the son of an immigrant family from the Ukraine, with a baby sister who is three years old and who make a living selling ice cream from an old van.
Bashkim’s father is unstable and violent towards his wife but she is isolated from her relatives and is not coping well with American life. Luis is in a Washington hospital, badly injured and as part of Bashkim’s schooling, he is encouraged to write to a vet and his letter ends up with Luis. They write to each other regularly and a strong connection is made. Their relationship and how they forged a kinship is wonderfully done.
Roberta is a social worker who works for CASA and who eventually has to decide what is going to happen in these people’s lives, lives that merge and mix and fall apart but somehow, by the end, are still standing. I can’t go into much more detail or it would ruin the pleasure you are going to receive in the reading of this book. You will feel desperately sad and then elated and then unbelieving at the end and it is so worth it. Laura McBride deserves your time and tears. Buy the book! Highly recommended.
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