Back when I wrote about themes that I enjoy in books, I forgot to mention that one theme I really love to see explored is the power of community. Not in any trite sugary sweet way but rather in the power of a community in extremely difficult times. I was really touched by the community in Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same. It's not necessarily the main focus, but it was one of my favorite parts of the book.
Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same is the story of Cesar who is growing up in a rough area of Los Angeles that is overrun by gangs. When his older brother ends up in jail for stabbing someone, his mother decides to bring Cesar to the Alaskan village where she grew up. At first Cesar isn't sure about the place. There isn't much to do. But he becomes quite close to his cousin, Joe, who is known as Go-Boy. Go-Boy has a charismatic personality, a deep faith, and a genuine love and concern for everyone in his village.
Not a whole lot happens in the book...there are a few key events that show just how rough life is in the village and for the central characters. Cesar knows something is wrong with Go-Boy but everytime he's with Go-Boy he never feels like anything is wrong. But Cesar is also harboring his own shameful secrets that prevent him from becoming truly close to anyone.
The narrative isn't exactly linear, Roesch will drop a shocking statement and then retrace to explain how we got there. It works most of the time, but there were a few times I felt confused.
There's also a strong atmosphere to the book. The Alaskan setting is rich and interesting. But what I loved most about this book was Go-Boy and his crazy beliefs. I don't want to say too much because it gives away an important turn the book takes, but I found everything about the book to be real, the emotions and the struggles were genuine, even if I felt more attached to Go-Boy's story than to Cesar's story.
And even while I don't necessarily believe things Go-Boy believed, like Jesus is an Eskimo Woman, many of his actual ideas about people and the way we live and the idea that we can have Heaven on Earth...well I do agree with some of those ideas. Not Heaven exactly, but I do believe Heaven begins on Earth when we strive to love others. I found a lot of his insights to be profound and true. But because this is still Earth...well Go-Boy had his own issues to deal with. ;)
While this book doesn't bring the characters to full resolution, it allows them all to take a turn and I think that's the most realistic thing about it all. It's the story of a year in the life of some people and the profound pain they faced and their struggles. It's touching and hopeful, without being saccharine. I loved it and I desperately want a t-shirt as described in the book that says Same-Same.
Things You Might Want to Know: a little bit of sex and language
Source of Book: ARC received from publisher
Publisher: Unbridled Books