Synopses & Reviews
Cesar leaves his gangbanging life behind in Los Angeles to help his mother reconnect with her estranged family in rural Alaska, where she hopes they both can get a fresh start. When Cesar arrives, he meets his college dropout cousin, Go-Boy, who believes he's part of a good world conspiracy and who bets Cesar he will stay in Alaska for a year. Here is Cesarex-gangbanger from Los Angeles, seventeen years old, younger brother of a convictgetting off a small bush plane, walking the gravel tarmac, meeting his rural Alaskan family for the first time. Here is Cesar, meeting his cousin Go-boybig hair, Eskimo Jesus tattoo on his forearm, a belief in heaven-on-earth. Here are the two, touring the tiny village in a busted up station wagon, stopping on the bridge at the edge of town, making a bet, I bet you stay in Alaska for a year, both staring through the windshield and down a road that just ends, both waiting for something. Here is where the story begins. Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same is the account of two unlikely cousins and their parallel journeys through guilt and loneliness. A refreshing, coming-of-age story set in a location like no other, Cesar and Go-boy struggle with their matriarchal family and the quirky challenges of life in Unalakleet, Alaska. Inevitably, setting becomes its own character, pushing and pulling against the other characters. With his absent father and an older brother in prison for a gang murder, Cesar is badly in need of a male role model, even in this matriarchal society. In spite of being haunted by his passive involvement with an LA street gang and his older brother's involvement in a gang murder, Cesar believes his real life is waiting for him in California. He sees his time in rural Alaska as a temporary pit stop to help his mother reconnect with her estranged family. That is, until he meets Kiana, Go-boy's stepsister. Cesar muses that Kiana is the type of girl who can change everything, and after one drunken night of passion between the two, everything for Cesar does begin to change. He becomes split by his obsession for Kiana and his budding dependency on Go-boy. As Go's mental stability deteriorates, Cesar is forced to choose between fleeing Unalakleet, or staying with the family and community to help his cousin. Go believes the meaning of life is creating a heaven on earth, and he tries to rope Cesar into his cause. When Go-boy falls into a dark depression, Cesar struggles to understand Go's mental illness and the chain of events that led Go-boy to attempt suicide. It is then the two cousins realize that their strength has been in their similarity to each other, and to the community. Or as Go-boy puts, sometimes we're always real same-same. What Cesar finally discovers is how starved we are for the experience of tight-knit community, for being part of and known by a community, for better or worse, a very exhilarating and fulfilling and scary phenomenon that certainly penetrates into the DNA of Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same.
"Roesch's offbeat debut is set in Unalakleet, Alaska, population 700, a destination that seems like the end of the world for teenage L.A. gang member Cesar Stone, uprooted by his mother after his older brother catches a murder conviction and a life sentence. Navigating without his brother or father, Cesar dwells on regrets while attempting to find himself in the refuge of his mom's native Alaska. Aggrieved at leaving L.A., but also relieved to be free from the gang's demands, Cesar bonds with his older cousin Go-boy, a Native with an optimistic outlook that belies personal tragedies. Go-boy bets a homemade tattoo of 'Eskimo Jesus' that Cesar will stay in Alaska for a year, where he believes Cesar truly belongs. After becoming accustomed to Go-Boy's peculiar dependability, Cesar begins to see troubling changes in his cousin; as he charts Go-boy's drift, he begins to see himself changing as well. Roesch's compelling story, exotic setting and eccentric characters make this coming-of-age tale a fresh, welcome read. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
[Roesch] delivers.”The New York Times Book Review
"Refreshingly honest ... masterful... Roesch draws the reader closer and closer to his tightly knit characters and the community that binds them. A totally engaging first novel...and completely unique."Booklist
"What makes this book good is its subtle rendering of village life as a web of relationships that sustain individual and community in a harsh environment. Yet because the characters are so well imagined, it does so without becoming a sociological diorama . . . Same-Same" is a quirky and endearing first novel." The Star Tribune
"The deep and universal desire for connectedness is explored here in stunningly original ways that speak to us all. An exciting debut by one of Americas finest young writers.”
Robert Olen Butler
To his credit, Roesch deftly avoids clichés such as walks in two worlds” or passages about Cesar reclaiming” his heritage
. [and] gives us a version of rural Alaska that we can smell, feel, hear and see. Its fresh
"A smashing debut
full of beauty, wisdom, and grace."Sigrid Nunez
Sometimes Were Always Real Same-Same” is the coming-of-age story of a young transplant to the village and explores the painful transition from adolescence to adulthood, the differences between religious and spiritual truths, and the nature of mental illness. It also takes up that age-old question of whether or not the people who we think are crazy might be the sanest among us. Its an ambitious project, and Roesch handles it ably
.This is a tightly written, well thought out book...memorable.”Fairbanks Daily Miner
Teens will enjoy the likeable Cesars informal laid-back voice and dialogue.”Pennsylvania School Library Association
Hes 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 hes 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-boys 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 isnt Go-boys tattoo but the indelible mark of Go-boys 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 were always real same-same.”