The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol
eBook review copy; 296 pages
The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol is highly recommended women's literary fiction.
Lara James is a ad executive with a thriving career and a husband she
adores. After her father's death she devotes herself even more fully to
her career and marries her husband, Will, a college professor her father
knew. The two are immediately attracted to each other. They both devote
themselves to their careers and each other for several years, until
Lara surprises them both by wanting a child. Getting pregnant doesn't
come easy, though, and Lara and Will have to endure years of treatments
and miscarriages until she finally becomes pregnant. When their daughter
Auden is born, though, being a mother isn't as tranquil and calm as
Lara thought it would be.
The Unprotected is well written and will draw you into the story
right away. The novel is also well-paced; I read the book in one sitting
and was engaged through the whole book. Sokol does a nice job
developing Lara's character. She's obnoxious in many ways, but you will
see her behavior patterns as being consistent with her personality. The
infertility problems and miscarriages had me feeling desperately sorry
for her pain. When her daughter is born and she spirals into postpartum
depression, again, I felt her pain.
So, basically, I like The Unprotected, but there are two glaring problems with it.
First Lara is not always a very sympathetic character. It's difficult
to feel compassion for her over her infertility and then postpartum
depression because she is portrayed as being so uncharitable to other
women not on her career path and so incredibly perfect. The only way you
can manage this is to draw on personal experiences, your own experience
or ones shared with you from your own circle of family and friends.
Since so many women have experienced both of these, gathering up empathy
for her was relatively easy, despite her difficult personality.
The second flaw overwhelms what the theme of the novel was supposed to
be, postpartum depression, according to the synopsis, in my opinion. The Unprotected portrays
Lara as a career-minded woman who doesn't want children, but changes
her mind in her late thirties. This is easily understood by many women.
Then we go through her miscarriages and subsequent infertility
treatments. I'm assuming that Sokol wanted to show how much Lara wanted
a child before she actually had one. So many women endure the pain and
loss from miscarriages and fertility problems that Lara's struggles with
this seemed like it could easily carry the narrative of the book. When
she finally gets pregnant, we rush through the pregnancy to her
postpartum depression. Then we endure her suffering with a colicky baby
and no relief. Again, many women have suffered from postpartum
depression and didn't have the ability or foresight to ask for help. In
my opinion, the book would have been stronger had it focused on one
overriding problem - either the infertility and miscarriages, which
devastate many woman but are rarely talked about, or her postpartum
depression, which many woman also suffer through silently.
The Unprotected still deserves a good rating but could have benefited from a tighter focus. (Also, ignore the comparison to We Need to Talk About Kevin.)
My review copy was courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing.