Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review: Sometimes We're Always Real Same Same by Mattox Roesch

Alaska is one of the few states I’ve never visited, so everything I know about it is secondhand. Unalakleet, a remote Alaskan village, sounded like an intriguing place to “virtually” visit, and so I waded into this debut novel. As seen through the eyes of 17 year old LA gang banger Cesar, who accompanies his native Eskimo mother back to live with her family after her divorce from Cesar’s father, “Unk” is a desolate place, full of strangers (many related to him), fish, and not much else.

At first Cesar doesn’t plan to stay, but his fear of what his gang might do to him for ditching them and his fascination with manic-depressive cousin Go-Boy keep him around. Cesar often flashes back to his own buried secrets while confronting those of people in town and minimizes his own feelings of guilt by concluding that everyone in the world has done ugly things.

Cesar’s rationalizations are hard to swallow, and in my opinion, the novel went too easy on him. Perhaps his biggest punishment is his inability to form close relationships with girlfriends, but compared to the imprisonment, suicide attempts, and deaths of people close to him, it seems out of balance somehow.

Despite my overall lukewarm reception of the characters and plot, there were compelling scenes scattered throughout that showed great insight into modern Eskimo culture, my favorite being the funeral/wake at the bowling alley.

SOMETIMES WE’RE ALWAYS REAL SAME SAME is available in paperback. Find out more about it on the author's website.

15 comments:

avisannschild said...

I was going to say that I'm surprised that the word Eskimo is being used in this book because I thought it was considered pejorative. But then I read on Wikipedia that "In Alaska, the term Eskimo is commonly used, because it includes both Yupik and Inupiat, while Inuit is not accepted as a collective term . . . . [whereas] in Canada and Greenland, the term Eskimo has fallen out of favour, as it is considered pejorative by the natives and has been replaced by the term Inuit." I live in Canada, so it now all makes sense!

I'm sorry to hear you didn't enjoy this novel more!

Lenore said...

That's really interesting Avis. I didn't even think about that.

I was actually discussing this book with my husband today over lunch, and he says it sounds like a "man's novel" to him. Maybe he'll read it and like it more.

I was also telling him that I thought the town was the best character in the novel. I would like to read more about Unk, but without the focus on Cesar and Go-Boy who just weren't doing it for me. (I did like Valerie a lot - too bad she was so minor).

Vampire Cat said...

I have a friend who is part Eskimo from Alaska. I will have to tell him about this book.

avisannschild said...

It's funny he should say that because it sounds like a "man's novel" to me too!

Melanie said...

That's cool that the town seemed to be a character of itself. I love books that have that.

bermudaonion said...

I had high hopes for this book - sorry to see it doesn't live up to them.

Staci said...

Sounds pretty interesting but I'm worried that this is one that I won't be able to warm up to myself!

Amy said...

I really really liked this book. I actually loved Go-Boy and was pretty indifferent to Cesar.

Beth F said...

I've been really interested in this book and picked up an ARC in May. I have no clue why I haven't been compelled to actually read it. The mixed reactions have increased my curiosity.

Wendy said...

It looks like you and I had similar reactions to this novel, Lenore. I do think it might appeal more to men than women.

stacybuckeye said...

I am intrigued by stories set in Alaska, so this one looks interesting. Thanks for the great review!

Beth Kephart said...

but such an interesting title!

the sort of book I would never know how to write, but love to hear that someone did.

Love those heated kittens, Lenore, and yes, you do ask some of the most original questions! Your interviews are a lot of fun.

Zibilee said...

This sounds like a really unique book, and I haven't read much of anything set in Alaska. I am going to take a closer look at this book, but will keep in mind that you had some reservations.

Ali said...

Sorry you didn't love it. I do get what you mean about Cesar not having it hard enough, but I guess I felt the story was more focused on Go-Boy, from Cesar's point of view. In some ways it reminded me of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Lenore said...

Ali - I had a similiar problem in not liking the narrator of THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, but I adored Oscar, and the plot was far more interesting.