The Unprotected: A Novel by Kelly Sokol

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“A baby is hardly an accomplishment. Any dumb mammal can give birth.”

From the beginning of the novel it’s obvious advertising executive, Lara doesn’t have fuzzy, warm feelings about motherhood, nor think much of women that sacrifice careers in exchange for  a stay at home lifestyle. Looking down on her own sister Bea and her children (whose husband has just left) she sees failure, pitiful desperation, and a bottomless pit of need. The disgust she feels about motherhood couldn’t be more obvious. “Just like their mother, Bea insisted on blooming where planted no matter how poor the earth. Sloppy women making sloppy, reactive decisions.”  Lara’s disdain carries a cruel perception about such women and so when it’s her turn imagine the  bruises to her ego, the emotional chaos of having difficulty trying to conceive, failing at what ‘any dumb mammal’ can do with ease.

Her father’s death is the driving force behind her decision. A woman who has always wanted to be successful and hardworking, she never expected to be such a failure at pregnancy. What should be an easy ‘task’, getting pregnant becomes a road of struggle and loss with IVF treatments and horrible miscarriages. Between the hormones and shock of her crashing hopes, she finally succeeds and gives birth to a baby girl, Auden. Just when it seems all will be well, she finds that motherhood doesn’t doesn’t suit her. In fact, she is living a nightmarish existence.

No one ever tells a woman that bonding might not come naturally, that not all babies are rosy cheeked, smiling bundles of delight. Something is off, Auden cries non-stop, Lara can’t seem to find a moment of peace nor get enough rest. She feels like the worst mother in the world and what should draw a husband and wife closer together seems to be the wedge between Will and Lara. Lara is falling into a dark hole, disturbing thoughts are consuming her mind, and she may well be a danger to herself, or the family she put so much effort into creating. She can’t find solid ground, she is clinging to life like a madwoman and no one can see she needs help, desperately. Human lives are not a business, there is no other way to truly learn how to be a ‘good’ mother without being thrown into it, but when your emotional state is off kilter it’s downright frightening. When Lara comes to the end of her sanity (it seems) she has a decision to make, but will it be one of salvation or horror?

Lara isn’t likable from the start as she looks down upon mothers but she is an honest portrayal of what certain women feel. Hard to take, but honest.  Sokol takes the most intimate time in any woman’s life (pregnancy, motherhood) and exposes the painful reality that overtakes many women, something that feels shameful, especially for women that have always been successful and never asked for help. The world has expectations of how a new mother, any mother actually, should behave and feel but what happens when she needs help and is too ashamed or lost to realize it? This isn’t an easy read, and you join the downward spiral Lara is on. When someone breaks, how can others hear it if they don’t understand it themselves? This is the ugly side, the unspoken terror some new mothers face. Will she get help in time?

Publication Date: April 25, 2017

Skyhorse Publishing

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