Monday, May 26, 2014


Las Vegas is not a setting that intrigues me. Nor am I a big fan of stories that document terrible events for individuals, especially for children. I would have set this book aside if I wasn’t writing a review and that would have been a mistake.

I cried at the end. I was enthralled with the author’s character development. McBride crafts four characters who don’t appear to be connected to each other. As their individual stories unfold, all of them dramatically, the connections are woven together with great sensitivity and a realistic eye to human nature’s joys, sorrows, and foibles.

There are two underlying storylines: cultural isolation as seen through the eyes of a 10 year old Albanian boy whose parents have no community connection; and two Iraq war veterans, each left with emotional and/or physical challenges that severely  impact how they make sense of returning to their Las Vegas worlds. Various supporting characters that develop the entwining stories include a caring school teacher, an insightful principal and a court appointed special advocate.  

The tension grows as the individual stories deepen and merge. Towards the end of the novel a character states: “But if, sometimes, an unspeakable horror arises from the smallest error, I choose to believe that it’s possible for an equally imaginable grandeur to grow from the tiniest gesture of love. I choose to believe that it works both ways. That great terror is the result of a thousand small but evil choices, and great good is the outcome of another thousand tiny acts of care. “

To enhance the read, I would have liked further editing in the early part of the novel as the various roles are introduced. I felt confused, at times, about their potential co-involvement which caused me to flip back and forth to see what I might have missed.

In addition to the entertainment of being engrossed in a world crafted by a talented writer, I appreciated standing in the shoes of people so very different from me in culture, age and upbringing. As a result, I feel better able to appreciate some of the challenges of those living in different contexts from mine. I have deepened my understanding of the trials for young veterans returning from recent war horrors. I feel more inclined to read novels that are outside my comfort zone.

Laura McBride’s first novel is an amazing accomplishment. 

Jennifer Mackie has lived in Guelph for  over 40 years, is a business consultant with never enough hobby time for reading, sports, online puzzles and quilting. She reads for entertainment and to discover the world of ‘curious’. Along with finding value in the story, she enjoys experiencing different writer’s styles and methods for how they entice one into their made up worlds.

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