Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Unprotected

The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol
Skyhorse Publishing:4/25/17
eBook review copy; 296 pages
ISBN-13: 9781510718326

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.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing.

No comments: