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25 November 2009

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

Title: Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same
Author: Mattox Roesch
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Publication Date: September 8, 2009
Paperback: 317 pages
ISBN: 978-1932961874
Genre: Fiction


About the Novel

He’s in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, because his Eskimo mother has moved home, and Cesar, a seventeen-year-old former gang banger, is convinced that he’s just biding his time ‘til he can get back to LA. His charmingly offbeat cousin, Go-boy, is equally convinced that Cesar will stay. And so they set a wager. If Cesar is still in Unalakleet in a year, he has to get a copy of Go-boy’s Eskimo Jesus tattoo.

Go-boy, who recently dropped out of college, believes wholeheartedly that he is part of a Good World conspiracy. At first Cesar considers Go-boy half crazy, but over time in this village, with his father absent and his brother in jail for murder, Cesar begins to see the beauty and hope Go-boy represents. The choice.

This is a novel about a different Alaska than many of us have read about in the past, about a different kind of wilderness and survival. As Cesar (who later assumes his Eskimo name, Atausiq) becomes connected to the community and to Go-boy, the imprint he bears isn’t Go-boy’s tattoo but the indelible mark of Go-boy’s heart and philosophy, a philosophy of hope that emphasizes our similarities to one another as well as a shared sense of community, regardless of place. As Go-boy says to Cesar, “Sometimes we’re always real same-same.”

My Review:

Roesch's debut novel, Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same, is a poignant coming of age novel about 17 year old Cesar. At the young age of 17, Cesar finds his life in turmoil. His brother has just been sentenced to life in prison and he, a member of a rival gang of his brother's, is heading in the wrong direction, so his mother decides to remove herself and her son from the poverty and gangs of L.A., and she only has one place to go, back to her hometown of Unalakleet, Alaska.
As difficult as it is to be an adolescent on the cusp of adulthood, try to envision doing so in a remote Eskimo village. Cesar is taken away from, while not an ideal life by any stretch, a life he has always known to be thrust into a world he neither understands nor knows, save his cousin Go-boy, whom he met once, years earlier in L.A. Roesch weaves several story lines together, both past and present, many bittersweet and at times may appear disjointed, as Cesar and Go both, for lack of a better term, come to age. The descriptive prose makes it easy for the reader to envision a life in Unalakleet. The remoteness and isolation of the town often mirror the feelings of Cesar and Go.
Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same is a touching, at times deeply sad, yet moving work of literature. The depth and complexity of this coming of age novel does not disappoint. While exceptionally well written I would caution readers, this novel is unlike more traditional "feel good," coming of age stories. Undercurrents of extreme angst, suicidal themes, intermixed with the questioning of religion, alcohol use and abuse, sex, and references to gangs make this novel a far more complex read than it may appear at first glance. I think this novel would make an excellent discussion group book, as this novel is rich in emotion, symbolism, and depth of character and offers the reader many points to ponder and discuss.

About the Author:

Mattox Roesch lived in Minneapolis for ten years where he played drums in an indie rock band, designed and peddled skateboards, and founded a T-shirt printing business. His award-winning fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Missouri Review. He and his wife now live in Unalakleet, Alaska.

I received a free copy of Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same by Mattox Roesch from Unbridled Books. Receiving a free copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.



Jennifer-Eighty MPH Mom said...

This sounds interesting. I am not sure it's my type of story, and it does sound different than the average coming of age novel. I think it would be a good read though - thank you for the review!

Jan said...

This sounds great. I think I'll track down a copy and read it.
Good review!

Stephanie said...

What an intriguing, well-written review! This one is going on my TBR list.The title alone grabbed my interest.