Monday, April 24, 2017

Review | The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol

The Unprotected: A Novel by Kelly Sokol
Published by Skyhorse Publishing on April 25th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: author

A compelling debut novel exploring postpartum depression—for readers of suspenseful women’s fiction and fans of Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin.
They say motherhood changes you.
As a driven advertising executive, Lara James has always put her career before any plans for a family, preferring professional chic to stay-at-home style. But after her father’s death, she realizes she’s ready. More than ready, in fact. Yet pregnancy—something other women seem to accomplish effortlessly, even accidentally—doesn’t come easily to Lara. What began as an adventure quickly becomes a nightmare as she and her husband endure endless IVF treatments, hormone therapy, and devastating miscarriages.
When Lara at last becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter, Auden, she believes their determination has paid off. But Auden cries day and night, ear-shattering screams that strip Lara of her nerves and energy. Her life as a sleep-deprived new mother is unrelenting, and, guiltily, Lara can’t help but mourn for what she once had. With her marriage crumbling, Lara is increasingly driven to alarming thoughts and destructive actions she would never have imagined possible before now. Hanging on by a thread, it’s only in her darkest moment that Lara will discover the true depths of her love and devotion—and what she’s willing to face for the family she’s so desperately sought.
At times disturbing, The Unprotected is a bold, unflinching novel for anyone who’s ever wanted children—and wondered what they might have to sacrifice along the way.

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Enjoy this excerpt from The Unprotected

“At thirty-nine years old, all Lara James wanted was a baby. The last two years of baby lust overpowered the previous thirty-seven of pleased childlessness. Her old self would be ashamed of her. Lara didn’t care. She doubted the doctor behind the heavy doors, her husband, God, the universe, knew how much she wanted a child, what she was willing to offer in return. The defined curve of her bicep went underused. Her calves could bounce and dance. Unbidden, her hand curved into a loose cup, ready to support the warm, pulsing weight of a newborn skull. Iterations of the word baby or child tickled the soft inner flesh of her lips, waiting to be flung out into the world.

Lara still would not admit how desperate she was for motherhood, not out loud, even sitting quietly in the lobby of the One Hope Fertility Clinic. The calendar on her phone blocked out two hours for an “off-site meeting.” Between Lara and Kathy, off-site meant anything from a lunch to woo potential clients, to Pilates, maybe a bikini wax. The dog-eared paper planner inside Lara’s smooth briefcase read only: O.H. blood draw and intro. Her bank statements and health insurance forms, the step-by-step guide to filing fertility treatment reimbursement requests spoke the truth: $647 for six months of Clomid; ten ovulation test kits; eight double-pack home-pregnancy tests; co-pays to her ob-gyn; then the $275 out-of-pocket fertility consultation fee. A baby? Priceless. Will wouldn’t look for those expenses; finance was Lara’s domain. Nonetheless, she alternated between paying with credit and debit cards and handing the pharmacist cash.”


Wow. Wow. Wow! After finishing my reading of The Unprotected, that was the word I couldn’t help but think over and over again. As a mom to a fifteen month old, I truly appreciate the raw intensity this book has to offer. Before I go on, I will say that it touches on some tough situations and something that is all too common in this day and age and a topic that is sometimes left unspoken about…infertility.

After the death of her father, Lara meets and marries Will. They both pride themselves on their thriving careers and devotion for one another. After being married for awhile, Lara finds herself wanting a baby. However, a baby isn’t something that comes easy for them. After several rounds of fertility treatments, Will and Lara are blessed with a daughter. This is where one would think that all of the struggle and heartbreak is behind them. Now that they have their beautiful little girl, everything should right in the world and the bonding between mother and daughter will be picture perfect like so many other moms have experienced. But….that’s not the case or the experience for new mom, Lara. Auden won’t stop crying. Lara finds herself going crazy and experiencing postpartum depression. Something that is not talked about enough.

As I mentioned above, I have a fifteen month old daughter. While I did not relate to the need for fertility treatments or the experience of postpartum, as a mom, I can certainly appreciate a book that is written with so much brutal and raw truth. I admire it, really. It is important to mention, however, that not all moms experience postpartum. I didn’t, but I know moms who have. I say that not to be discouraging to those who are wanting to become moms, but to be encouraging and to say that you shouldn’t pass up on the beautiful journey of motherhood because of something that could or could not happen for you. I truly look at this book as a heartbreaking letter of encouragement for those who are experiencing postpartum or might one day find themselves experiencing it to seek professional help.

So, with that all being said. Do not let this tough topic of this book discourage you from reading it and taking on the emotional journey alongside Lara. It is apparent that the author, Kelly Sokol, has a true passion for this topic and wanting women to seek the help they need to overcome postpartum.

four out of five stars


Kelly Sokol is a Pushcart-Prize nominated author and MFA-Creative Writing graduate from Goddard College. She has been featured on NPR, discussing the portrayal of motherhood and postpartum depression in fiction. She teaches creative writing and serves on the Board of Directors at The Muse Writers Center.

When she is not reading, writing or parenting, Kelly dreams, in color, of the mountains. She can often be found skiing or wandering the backcountry. The mother of two plucky daughters, she resides in Virginia.

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