Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same
Semi-Finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award
West Best Books in the West, 2009
Best Adult Books for Young Adults, 2009
"Thoughtful ... [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
"Roesch’s compelling story, exotic
setting and eccentric characters make this coming-of-age tale a fresh,
"Though Mattox Roesch’s enchanting
narrator in his debut novel is seventeen, the book is far more than a teen-coming-of-age
tale. The deep and universal desire for connectedness is explored here
in stunningly original ways that speak to us all.Sometimes
Always Real Same-Same is an exciting debut by one of America’s
finest young writers."
"[A] richly detailed portrait
of this town...that is authentic
and refreshingly unlike any typical depiction of Alaska....Roesch has a winner."
“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. It’s fresh….captivat[ing].”
"A smashing debut by a writer who does not
flinch from the misfortune and cruelty that rule certain lives but whose
vision is full of beauty, wisdom, and grace."
"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."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
"This is a tightly written, well thought
out book....Roesch never sentimentalizes. His characters are memorable,
his storyline rings true, and his underlying ideas are well worth pondering."
-Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
"Roesch’s debut novel is a riveting
story. ... Roesch sets up a complex network of village relationships ...
it’s all very real and very compelling."
"Roesch ... writes with a spare elegance."
Troubled 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 carve out 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.
Sometimes We're Always Real Same-Same is the account of
two unlikely cousins and their parallel journeys through guilt and loneliness
into the bonds of friendship. Set in a location like no other, Cesar and
Go-boy struggle with the quirky challenges of life in Unalakleet,
Alaska. With his absent father and an older brother in prison for a gang
murder, Cesar is badly in need of a male role-model and the acceptance
of friends and family.
What Cesar finally discovers is the power of friendship
and the potential positive strength that springs from a tight-knit community.
He learns the ways in which becoming a part of that community, though at
times scary and restrictive, can also be fulfilling and even exhilarating
"All the Way Rider " in Narrative
Magazine, Spring 2008
The same month my brother Wicho went to prison,
I met Go-boy for the first time. He’d won a trip to Disneyland
for his whole family after making a home movie and entering it in
a contest for Native Alaskan high school students: What
Are the Most Important Issues Facing Rural Villages in the Twenty-first
Century? I remember because it was the
first time I had ever thought about Alaska and all the cousins we
"Burn the House Down" in Indiana
Review, Volume 29.2
The jail had been scheduled to be demolished
since early summer, but with each problem during the new building's construction,
demolition of the old one was delayed. People around here weren't talking
much about this. People in town never really complained or showed public
emotion about anything, anyway. They only said the new jail was up on
Air Force Hill, and that it was bigger, and that we'd be able to see
it from town. And people were right. If you stood in a certain place,
like next to the old jail, and looked between a couple houses, you could
see a galvanized tin roof where there used to be nothing but trees, four
miles out on the only road. This was just above the city dump--the place
where the old jail would be thrown. And of the seven hundred people who
lived here, if you asked any one of them about the old jail I bet none
would say they were sad to see it torn down. It was a busted, unpainted
wood house that the police had been using for many years. It sat next
to the post office right on Main Road, right in the middle of town, rotting.
You couldn't do anything around here without passing the place two or
three times a day. And the only thing that would make everyone happier
than seeing it destroyed, would be not needing a jail at all.
"The Thing in Her Thumb" in Redivider issue
Kiana and my mom became friends the first time they
met. They bonded over something called seal finger. Kiana stopped by
our house and walked around the little place, looking at each decoration
and family picture, even the stereo, as if everything were exotic. Mom
apologized for the mess. She said we hadn't finished unpacking yet. It
was Mom who had the seal finger, and I guessed Kiana knew the cure...or
at least, a relief.
Kiana pointed to a living room wall, said, "I've
always wanted a map of the world." She had these strikingly high cheekbones,
chiseled under mysterious, almost sad eyes--a face with the strength and
danger of hundred-foot cliff.
Podcast reading of "Go at Shaktoolik" and
interview with The
Missouri Review 6.25.07
"Go at Shaktoolik" in The
Missouri Review, Volume 29, #3
Sometimes the smoke in the village was
so thick, if you threw a rock you couldn’t see it land. Other times
there was just a haze. That week there had been forest fires twenty-five
miles inland from Unalakleet. East winds had suffocated everything, putting
some jobs on hold and even closing the school for a few days. And since
all the planes were grounded—nothing was coming or leaving—Go-Boy
told me another week of this and AC Store would run out of food. But
he laughed, and said, “We got fifteen bags of French fries in our
freezer.” I checked, and we did.
Later that week, when the smoke had started to thin, Go-Boy
left me a yellow note stuck to the on/off button of our tv—MEET ME
BY THE BOAT, TWO O’CLOCK. WE’RE SPREADING GOOD NEWS. There
was a chance that Go would maybe give me the money I needed to move back
home, so I didn’t want to say no to anything.
"Humpies" on AGNI
2007 Best American Nonrequired Reading
"It seems like so much of good writing takes what is unknown and makes familiar
or alternatively takes what is familiar and makes it unique. A story from Agni
Online, "Humpies" by Mattox Roesch, does both by recreating a bizarre
family drama within a small town fishing community in Alaska. There’s a
touch of the familiar in the provinciality, the teenage reluctance, and the fractured
families, which is then injected with idiosyncrasies like the nearly biblical
arrival of the “humpies” and the unthinkable crime that a father
commits. What really stood out in this short story was the way it suggests a
whole past — an entire family history of out which comes a gang-banging
brother, a deserted father and a concerned but aloof mother — through subtle,