Updated: Sep 13
Back in May—don’t worry it seems like ages ago for me too—Helium expressed our gratitude to our then current readers, by gifting them a book: We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride. The intention was to provide a tangible thank you to our readers, a book for them to enjoy during quarantine and read together as a Helium community. We hoped for the story to prove the power of the human spirit, especially when adversity struck.
The intention of this post is to extend that community togetherness, by offering a space for us all to connect, interact, and share our thoughts on Laura’s book. While, for some, it may have been some time since you've read it, I encourage you to dig deep into the think-tank to share your thoughts and engage in an open and honest discussion.
If you liked We Are Called to Rise, I also encourage you to mention the book (or your thoughts on the book) to a family member, a friend, or a co-worker. Heck, let 'em borrow your copy and pass it along to others! That's the beauty in a good story...it's ability to be shared over and over.
If you have not yet read the book and are experiencing a wicked case of FOMO (fear of missing out) you can get a free copy through Helium here. Read it, then come back and share your thoughts!
Now, let's get into it...
For some, this experience of sharing online may be second nature; you've done it before, be it through online classes, etc., and can do it again. On the other hand, for those of us who may not have as much experience or may be hesitant to share their thoughts and feelings on the internet (admittedly, I am one of those people), fear not. Just be yourself.
Before getting underway, I want to lay out a few ground rules:
This is a safe space for honest thoughts and feelings to be shared.
Respect each other. Remember that we are interacting with other human beings.
When viewpoints differ, strive to understand prior to immediately posting your gut reaction. It will make for more constructive dialogue.
Have fun and let us know your true thoughts!
Now, for the moment you all have not (err I mean...have) been waiting for—my take (a.k.a. Jake’s Take) on We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride.
+ // The Pros
I freaking loved how Laura wrote this story, allowing for each character's voice to shine through, chapter by chapter. This made not only the collective story better, but provided the much needed inner monologue of these characters, allowing us to get to know them on a more intimate level. It certainly helped me relate to certain experiences I too have lived and empathize with those that I haven't.
From each individual voice to the ultimate bigger picture, as I progressed through the book, I could get the sense that the characters' paths would soon intersect. While they didn't have too much physical interaction with each other, I still found it neat how the story was able to intertwine the characters through other means.
I enjoyed the various parallels that we, as the reader, could make—Avis & Rodney and Bashkim & Tirana, for example. Both Avis and Bashkim had this intense responsibility and obligation to be the caretaker of their younger siblings. Both sets of children even employed similar coping mechanisms and relied heavily on one another in times of uncertainty. These shared subtleties were fun to pick up on throughout the book.
In a similar, yet...dissimilar, light, let's talk about Luis and Nate. Despite their shared background and adversities, their respective outcomes diverged drastically. It was fascinating to read of Luis' growth throughout the book, and, truth be told, he ended up becoming one of my favorite characters (although, I must say, Bashkim takes the cake). Nate, on the other hand, takes a different path and begins to spiral out of control. Interestingly enough, although Nate seemed to have more of support system around him on which he could lean for help, it was Luis who began to rise...
- // The Cons
First, the time spent leading up to the tragedy involving the Ahmeti family was far too long. While the context was needed to paint a clearer picture character-by-character, I would have liked to hear more from the aftermath of the tragedy, particularly from Bashkim.
Following that same short-lived post-tragedy theme, I felt the ending was rushed. I’ll admit, I do not have much experience or knowledge of the foster care system, but it certainly feels like this would have been the perfect time to learn more from Bashkim's point of view. While we certainly got a glimpse of it, unfortunately, it was severely muted.
Towards the end of the book, I must say that the decision to allow Bashkim and his sister to live with Luis and his grandmother bothered me. Knowing what these individuals knew, to allow Bashkim and his sister to live with Luis, who not only killed a boy, but also caused strife between the Ahmeti family via his relationship with Bashkim, did not make sense to me. I fail to imagine that this was the best option for Tirana and Bashkim, but again I have little expertise when it comes to foster care.
Lastly, I struggled to reconcile the title with the content of this book. To me We Are Called to Rise didn't make the most sense, although I can envision how one could see why Laura titled the book as she did. From Bashkim "putting on a brave face" to not show worry, anger, or sadness during the court hearing, done for his sister's sake, to Luis learning to grow and understand that his battle doesn't need to be fought alone, the characters did indeed rise to an extent. But, I just had a hard time coming to terms with the title of the book. Perhaps it was just me. 🤷♂️
I certainly enjoyed the read, the viewpoints, and the stories. It was creatively written and had me captivated, waiting to see how these characters would soon become involved (either directly or indirectly). I am always fond of character growth and development, of which there is no shortage of here, but again I would have liked to hear more from Bashkim at the end, as it would have provided a little more insight and closure.
Now that you have heard my take, engage with me! Or, ignore it and simply share any/all of your thoughts! We as a Helium community want to hear them!