There are so many challenges veterans face when coming back from deployment. I was surprised to find that this theme was at the heart of Laura McBride’s story, We Are Called to Rise. The title seems to suggest rising above, and that’s exactly what it does. Focusing on the lives of two returning Iraq War veterans, the collective story is told from a few different perspectives. The characters in the story are called to rise to the occasion. Each vet is challenged in a different way, one returns home a hero – and becomes a well-known and well-loved police officer. The other is broken, and struggling to adjust to life back home.
The story does not disappoint. It was one of the best books I’ve read in a while – and going in I had no idea what to expect, or how the lives of the main characters would intersect. Beginning with the perspective of one of the soldiers’ mother, I was so surprised that a civilian could capture these feelings. Both soldiers are dealing with PTSD, and a war they can’t seem to distance themselves from.
“I thought I would die every day. Every hour. Not at first. Crazy shit happened in the first tour, but I don’t know, it didn’t bother me like it bothered some other guys. I mean, we were at war. We did what we were told to do. People died. Kids died. Women died. But I thought we had to do it. I thought it was part of a grand plan. What my generation had to do.
“And then, I don’t know, it just changed. I mean, what were doing over there? What was the plan? Why were we there? Some hotshit general would come to Baghdad, or some senator, and it was all the same. They didn’t know what they were doing. They didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Throughout the story, each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective. The book begins with Avis, a woman going through a heartbreaking divorce, she is the mother of the police officer, who is still struggling in his own way. Louis is the other veteran, who spends most of the book in Walter Reid, recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Bashkim is a young boy who becomes a pen pal of Louis. Louis is hurt, and broken, feeling ashamed and worthless; Bashkim turns out to be his redeemer.
I loved this book, it is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. If you’re looking for a good book to read this summer – I recommend this one! I loved all of the characters, even though they each seemed flawed. There was so much real depth and emotion, I wanted to hug someone after I finished reading it! Not exactly light summer reading, but something that gives so much insight into the obstacles soldiers face it is a must read.