I’m fully aware that this is a standard end of the year sentiment, but it simply does not seem possible that another full year is in our rear-view. How is it that when it’s time to help with homework, an easy ten-minute assignment can drag on for what seems like hours, but an entire year can fly by in the blink of an eye? That Father Time is one sneaky guy.
The turning of the calendar page brings not only a new year, but a new month as well, which means it is also time for the Under Cover Book Club to convene once again, with the first selection of the new year.
I must admit that I am still finishing the last book club book (cut me some slack, the month of December is NOT one of the occasions that time slows down!) and had not yet given much thought to the selection for January.
Santa saved the day by filling my stocking with items that included, as usual, a shiny new book.
This year, St. Nick brought me “We Are Called to Rise,” by Laura McBride, and thus chose the book club selection for January.
The book takes its title from a beautiful quotation from Emily Dickinson, “We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies.”
McBride follows four main characters, all residents of Las Vegas, as they are called to rise from each of their circumstances.
Avis is a fifty-something woman who discovers the surprise unraveling of her 30-year marriage. Bashkim is an 8-year-old immigrant, whose family struggles with, among other things, poverty, and a differing of cultures that makes their existence devoid of much hope for improvement. Luis is a military vet, returning wounded from a tour to the Middle East, both emotionally and physically. Roberta is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, working hard to make her world a better place in some small way, whose voice provides the reader with background and context about life in the forgotten side of Las Vegas.
Midway through the novel, an event takes place that will cross the paths of all four, as their stories intertwine. As we suffer with the characters through each of their individual tragedies, we also are able to watch as they choose whether to disappear into their own despair, or find the courage to lift themselves out of it.
The book also explores our responsibilities to one another as a society. It shows that compassion can rescue not only those who are the recipients of “charity,” but those who are the benefactors as well.
As I researched the book for this column, one quotation kept popping up: “It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the wind-blown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing.”
How lovely. Everything matters. Large or small, good or bad, each action we take affects others. I can’t wait to read this book and see how McBride’s characters are able to use these small, unsung occurrences to pull themselves out of certain sorrow.
Rising out of the pain of our past seems an especially appropriate theme for the start of a new year, and I hope that you will, once again, join me on the journey.
Edie Crabtree is an avid reader and the mother of three active boys. She can be reached at [email protected].