***This review has also been posted on The Social Potato
This is one of the most emotionally moving books I’ve read in a long time and while I had been looking forward to reading it, I had no idea it would have such a huge impact on me.Based loosely on a real life event (VERY LOOSELY), this book has a way of capturing your heart and making you feel overwhelmed with the realities of lifewhere people can get away with things. In spite of the saddness that is packed in this book, this book gives you hope. Hope that while terrible things happen, all is not lost.
This book has four different storylines that are brought together by a terrible incident (which I will not mention for the fear of spoiling as it doesn’t occur until halfway through the book). There are little things that connect these stories though and one of the major connections, aside from the fact that all 4 narrators live or come from Las Vegas, is war. War is an ugly thing and I love the way the author portrays it. She shows what it does to young men who didn’t know what they were getting into but it also shows a side of it, which while not positive, isn’t completely negative. Like this one instance where, Luis, a young soldier who has been on 91 live runs, talks about how when you’re at war, you forget about the trivial differences between people, it doesn’t matter what god they pray to or what race they are, the only thing that matters is protecting one another and SURVIVING.
This book is brimming with diversity and it’s so beautifully brought to life in the city of Las Vegas. I, for one, have never really imagined Las Vegas as anything but the stereotypes portray it to be, a lively city with a dynamic night life and tons of casinos but the author brings to light another side of the city, the one with ‘regular’ life.
The book opens with Avis, a 53, year old who has just found out that her husband is in love with another woman. Avis was a great character. She had a horrible childhood and it has had a major impact on the person she is today.There are constant flashbacks into her past but they are paragraphs and not pages. They give an insight into why she is this scared person who is afraid of not being noticed. The person who can be insecure at times and is wonders if life is worth going on anymore since there seems to be nothing to live for. The situation with her son changes things. Nate’s time in the army has changed him. Changed him to the point where he may or may not be abusing his wife and when Nate finally crosses the line Avis is forced to consider the possibility that her son is no longer the little innocent boy she knew him to be. As the story progresses, Avis has to choose between her role as a mother and doing the right thing and she grows. She grows as a character and throughout the book we see how her past forces her to re-evaluate certain things. It’s wonderful watching her progress throughout the book and she doesn’t let you down in the end.
The only thing that I didn’t really like about her story was her husband. Jim bothered the living daylights out of me and personally I had wished things would have gone another way. The Jim of the past sounded like a wonderful guy but the Jim we knew? I couldn’t even fathom the two as being the one and the same. I would have enjoyed it a lot more if things hadn’t turned out the way they had and they two would have dealt with the issue together instead.
Roberta only played a minor part in the book even though she had her own story line. Her story line wasn’t really personal and didn’t add much to the story which is why I am not sure it was needed. I never really got to learn more about her as a person aside from the fact that she really liked helping people and wanted to make as much as a difference as she could and really, if that’s all the author wanted to show, it would have been easier to make it evident from a 3rd POV instead of her having a narrative. In my opinion, that page space could have been better spent on exploring the other story lines.
Luis’s story was heartbreaking. He is just a 22 year old and has lived through more things than any kid should have to. He didn’t have a sad/heartbreaking childhood though, he, from what I can gather, had a perfectly normal childhood aside from the fact that his grandmother had raised him. His time in Iraq affected him, a mistake he made haunts him, to the extent where he may or may not have indirectly caused the death of his buddy and to the point where he killed himself after writing a very offensive letter to an 8 year old. A lot of the book deals with him trying to recover from the trauma he is suffered and we get a small glimpse of PTSD.
It’s really overwhelming to see his struggle. The way he cannot seem to remember what actually happened and the way he is surprised by the kindness he is shown by Dr. Ghosh. It’s heartbreaking to see him latch on to the hope of forgiveness that an 8 year old offers him with and it’s heartbreaking to see this guy, who is barely an adult himself, have to live with so much guilt.
The character who really stole my heart and the show is the said 8 year old, Bashkim. It took him only a few pages to weasel his way into my heart. His innocence stole my heart and the way he had more courage than so many adults really made me just want to hug him. His story really tears your heart out and seeing any 8 year old in that situation would get even the most unfeeling to at least feel some compassion.
One of my favorite things about Bashkim’s story, aside from the wonderfulness of his character, was how the author chose to portray his father. His father, although someone who could not be labelled as innocent and for a large part was unlikeable, was also a poor man with no way out. He was not a great man but at the same time, he wasn’t an evil guy. He was an immigrant who hadn’t caught a break in what seemed like forever. It’s what made the situation they were in so much more heartbreaking. The fact that they had no family to turn to and the fact that they were poor would ensure that they would never get justice and that tore my heart out.
I cannot say much about the plot because saying anything would be spoiling the book and in all honesty, it’s something everyone needs to experience for themselves.
With a delightfully complex characters and a powerful message at its heart, this is a story that’ll leave you thinking for a long time.
I am not sure I’ve done this book justice with my review but it’s safe to say this is one of the most moving books I’ve read this year and I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking for something deeper.