The other Las Vegas -- the homes and communities off the strip where the highrollers and tourists don't often go. Some parts of the city can be tough and mean, the seedy side competing with the bright lights and lures of a fantasy town built on dreams and money. Millions of people drift in and out of Las Vegas and some have lived there for generations hardscrabbling to make a life in a place carved out of the desert. It can be a nightmare for those on the fringe and Roberta Weiss, a CASA volunteer, has seen the worst so she seeks out the homeless and marginalized children to offer food, a place for shelter, advocacy in court or foster care. There are many she can't save.
The narrative shifts in perspective as a compelling tale unfolds -- for all of these separate lives ultimately converge. Nate Gisselberg and Luiz Rodriguez-Reyes are two soldiers rasied in Las Vegas who returned from the war zones deeply affected by where they've been and what they've done. Avis, Nate's mother, is dealing with a shocking betrayal and divorce after her husband tells her he's fallen in love with another woman. And then there's Bashkim Ahmeti, an 8-year-old boy, son of Albanian immigrants -- his parents and little sister make their living selling ice cream off a truck that's on its last fumes. None of them live in the same Las Vegas, but all will meet after a tragic twist that the author has based on a true event. Who among them will be "called to rise" and whose stature will fail to "touch the skies" when the unspeakable happens?
This book captured me from the first few lines and I was unable to tear myself away from the unfolding chapters even as I held my breath waiting for the climax as if it was a ticking time bomb. The writing was eloquent and honest, the characters were complex and the voices of each so believable. The reader feels the pain and the soul searching, the cry in the night, the fear, the heartache. Every one is fighting personal demons, but yet, there is love, too.
I'd recommend this enthusiastically as it will generate fantastic discussion. The only reason I felt a bit cheated was that the last chapter seemed a bit rushed and I wanted more detail about some of the dangling ends that were never fully explained. But, if it almost brought tears to my eyes, it also made me feel hopeful that people are meant to be good, but many can't do it alone and often need help they can't or won't ask for. For some of us, there will be a defining moment in our lives where we are "called to rise" and I fervently hope I can be "true to plan."
4.5 out of 5 stars
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