Thursday, September 17, 2009
Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch
FINALLY! A review book I actually LIKED! I've felt kind of bad that the last two LibraryThing Early Reviewer books that I reviewed got lukewarm responses from me. I even considered leaving the program, since I didn't like the books I was receiving. However, then I received my copy of Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch. And, despite my other obligations, I couldn't put it down.
The book tells the story of Cesar, an LA kid who had gotten into gangs through his older brother Wicho. Wicho was now in prison for life for killing two teenagers. Cesar's mom decides enough is enough and she moves Cesar away from the gangbanging LA life that he's known to the remote Alaskan village of Unalakleet, where she grew up.
Cesar has to adjust to not only a new place to live, but a new way of life. Village life is almost the polar opposite of his life in LA. He gets to know his cousin, Go-Boy, and his adopted cousin, Kiana, with whom he pursues a relationship. Tragedy strikes, fairly early on in the book, and Go-Boy's mental illness becomes apparent. Cesar has to learn how to deal with that, as well as continuing to adjust to Alaskan life. Will Go-Boy's "good conspiracy" come to pass? Will Cesar stay in Unalakleet or go back to LA?
I realized, partway through the book, that I had read Mattox Roesch's short story "Humpies," upon which the book is partially based, in last year's Best American Non-Required Reading. And I was glad to get the chance to revisit the story, get the FULL story, of Cesar and Go-Boy. I think Roesch did a great job with the voice of the novel. He captured the Native voice well, along with Cesar's bewilderment at being trapped somewhere between the Native and the modern.
I thought a lot about Wicho, Cesar's brother, in prison for life for shooting and killing two kids, and Go-Boy, Cesar's cousin, with his "good conspiracy" and his efforts to see and bring out the best in everyone. I think they were good foils for one another, two opposite ends of the spectrum, each encouraging Cesar which way to go, in a sort of spiritual tug-of-war. They were each an older brother of sorts to Cesar. I liked the conflict they created.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book, more than I even expected to when I first read the description. Four out five Whatevers. Recommended for those who want some exposure to the frozen North.