Fifth-annual One Book One Valley selects new author’s ‘We Are Called to Rise’ | VailDaily.com
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Fifth-annual One Book One Valley selects new author’s ‘We Are Called to Rise’

Laura McBride's "We Are Called to Rise" is this year's One Book One Valley selection.
Special to the Daily |

One Book One Valley

The Bookworm of Edwards and local libraries have extra copies of “We Are Called to Rise.” Download the book or download the audio – or both. Free programs and discussion groups will be offered January through April at Eagle Valley Library District’s library branches and at the Vail Public Library. The culminating author event with Laura McBride will take place at Colorado Mountain College. For information and schedules, go to onebookonevalley.com.

This year’s One Book One Valley selection is heroic and heartbreaking and everything great literature is supposed to be.

Except boring. “We Are Called to Rise” is never boring.

Chapter 1 is a little dark. Hang in there; it picks up.

“Your heart will break and then soar,” says a review in Redbook magazine.

“I’ve spent my entire life thinking about using words and making sentences. It started when I was 7 years old, and I finally put it on paper. I feel like I’ve spent my entire life honing my craft,” said author Laura McBride said.

One Book for five years

The Vail Public Library’s Lori Ann Barnes brought One Book One Valley to our valley five years ago. The idea has been kicking around the literary world since the 1990s, she said.

Barnes contacted some literature-loving folks around the Eagle Valley Library District. For good measure, she involved The Bookworm of Edwards and Dr. Jenny Wing, from Colorado Mountain College, who runs CMC’s Common Reader.

“We’re trying to encourage literacy, people sharing a book and enjoying it,” Barnes said.

Like literature, the selection process is more art than science.

They start talking about books in late summer or early fall. The book must have high literary merit. It has to be something both your major genders, men and women, will want to read, and you have to be able to get your hands on the book.

About the Chosen book

“We Are Called to Rise” is a story about what happens when the borders of our own lives are smashed and strangers collide and care for each other.

“When the worst in life brings out the best in us,” Barnes said.

It’s is set in contemporary Las Vegas, and it goes like this:

Three lives are bound together by a split-second mistake:

• An 8-year-old Albanian immigrant boy whose family drives an ice cream truck and is struggling to assimilate.

• A middle-aged housewife coping with an imploding marriage and a troubled son.

• An Hispanic soldier sent to Iraq right after high school, recovering from an injury he can’t remember getting.

Each character speaks in a distinctive first-person voice for a chapter at a time, reminiscent of William Faulkner’s classic “As I Lay Dying.”

By the time we realize how these voices will connect, the impossible and perhaps the unbearable has already happened. When presented the opportunity to sink into despair, these characters rise. Through acts of remarkable charity and bravery, they rescue themselves.

It’s based loosely on a real incident, McBride said.

“It’s this terribly sad, painful thing that happened, and I could not get it out of my head,” McBride said.

Las Vegas is one of the other main characters, but not The Strip. Most Las Vegas people go about their lives, not wearing stiletto heels and push-up bras.

“There are lots of myths about Las Vegas, and there should be. Billions of dollars are spent to market those myths,” McBride said. “I live an ordinary life in an extraordinary city. A critic described Las Vegas as ‘our most opulent nowhere,’ which was a dagger to my heart.”

About McBride

This is McBride’s first novel, which is remarkable.

She wrote it when she was 50 years old, as she started thinking about what she was putting into the world, she said.

“I set out with the very clear intention to write a book that might make a reader have a big feeling, the sense that no matter how cruel or unfair life might be in a given moment, no matter how terrible the consequences of a tiny mistake might be, it was ultimately beautiful to be alive. I didn’t set out to write a book about war or poverty or racism. I just wanted the reader to love a child enough to feel devastated when that child’s heart was broken and euphoric when that child got a chance at hope. I wanted the reader to walk away believing that, with all our faults, human beings are worth saving,” McBride said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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