Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sometimes we’re always real same-same

 Sometimes we’re always real same-same by  Mattox Roesch
             There is a huge amount happening in this novel, and I’m not sure that all of it comes together. Cesar, 17 moves from Los Angeles, when his mom decides that she wants to return to where she came from: Unalakleet, Alaska or Unk for short. Cesar really doesn’t want to live in such a small town, where there are no real stores and the only job going is counting fish in the stream. However, his life in LA wasn’t exactly that great.  His brother ran with a gang, but is now in prison for killing two fifteen year-olds,  so Cesar hasn’t seen him for years. His father has left his mom, and doesn’t really seem to care much for Cesar. As well, Cesar has been running with a gang for the past few years, and he’s done something horrific that he doesn’t feel that he can admit to anyone.
            When he gets to Unk, he meets his cousin Go-boy, who has huge reserves of energy and enthusiasm. Go-boy is the kind of guy that you want to know because he cares about everyone and he always tries to make a difference. However, as the novel continues, it becomes apparent that Go-by isn’t the stable presence he appears to be. Go-boy’s step-sister Kiana, a math genius who still keeps on messing up, is a possible love interest for Cesar, but she really seems to hate his guts.
             Go-boy is really interesting because as Cesar starts to build a proper life for himself, Go-boy seems to be falling apart. Go-boy has a strong personal philosophy about how people should behave and how they should be good, but there seems to be something wrong with him. On one hand, he runs for mayor and makes t-shirts for the entire community that say same-same, indicating how much he cares for and loves his town. On the other hand, he starts writing the 100 reasons why he loves Valerie all over town, but she isn’t interested in him anymore. In fact, she’s become scared of him.
            I’ll say it again; there is a huge amount of things happening in this book. First there is Go-boy and the question of his mental health. Then there are the issues within the Eskimo community of Unk (As a Canadian I feel really weird typing Eskimo, but apparently it’s the only word that really covers the two native communities in Alaska).  There aren’t a ton of jobs, and the old jail still exists as a symbol of some of the past traumas within the community. As well, there is a horrific incident in which a father comes home drunk and accidently puts his four year old son in a coma.  Then there is the fact that Cesar is unsure if anyone can know him, unless they know what he’s done. In LA, as the situation between the two gangs kept on escalating exponentially, he participated in the gang rape of a rival leader’s girlfriend.
          There are some really interesting ideas in the novel, especially when Go-boy is talking about religion or community. However, the novel comes from Cesar’s point of view, which means that the plotting is confusing, as we discover things that happened months ago only when Cesar finds out. As well, Cesar’s not the most organized of story tellers.  I enjoyed this book, but I kept on flipping to the end, or back to the beginning to figure things out.  I did like that this book tried to really show how life is in a small town fishing village in Alaska. The only other book that I’ve read recently that dealt with the North (from a Canadian perspective) was Consumption by Kevin Patterson. I will say that the end of the novel moved me, but it took me a long time to get there.

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