Review: The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol

Title: The Unprotected
Author: Kelly Sokol
Pages: 296
Genre: Fiction
Source: Free ARC from Skyhorse Publishing

Rating: 4 stars

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from Skyhorse Publishing via NetGalley/Edelweiss. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.

Review: The journey that Lara goes through to get to motherhood is rough and unexpected, and then when she finally has what she thinks she wants, she finds motherhood itself to be markedly different than she anticipated. She becomes someone she never imagined and struggles to find a way back to some semblance of herself.

Wow. There is actually a great deal to unpack here. Maybe the intent of this book was to highlight the realities of postpartum depression (PPD), but I feel that is vastly oversimplifying. Admittedly, this might be because there are many parallels between Lara’s experience and my own, so this book made me feel all the feelings. That made empathizing with Lara easy, even on the occasions when I didn’t share her feelings or perspective (and trust me, there were times I found her profoundly unlikeable). It also made me react emotionally at certain parts of the book that just hit too close to home. Even when I didn’t like her, I felt a comradery with Lara that made me a little protective when things started to go bad at the end.

The truth is, I’m struggling to review the book rather than write an essay comparing my experience with Lara’s. Which speaks volumes for the authentic voice and tone of the book. There were a few details about the infertility process that didn’t jive with my experience (as is often the case on television shows where they never seem to even try to get it right), but I fought back my irritation, reasoning that maybe they do things differently in other parts of the country. There were times where her husband Will made me want to break things, but that’s mostly because his reactions were painfully familiar. See? Authentic. And her attitude towards motherhood in the beginning was irritating. I’ve got no issues with women choosing not to have children, and I don’t even care why. But ridiculing others for their procreation choices while being insulted when they ridicule yours? That’s called hypocrisy, my dear. But also? Pretty authentic. 😉

***********************MINOR SPOILER ALERTS***********************

Two points of contention: I think this representation of postpartum depression (PPD) is pretty severe towards the end. Not saying it can’t get that bad (I’m no doctor, as I assume you all know), I just don’t think that hallucinations and violence are typical for most sufferers of PPD. In fact, I don’t think it’s appropriate, given the severity, to label it postpartum depression. It seems more like postpartum psychosis to me, which much more severe and pretty uncommon. Also, having suffered through infertility myself, and having participated pretty heavily in the virtual infertility community during those years, I’d like to point out that the majority of people who are struggling to get pregnant don’t go around trying to walk off with other people’s babies. This is a perverse and unfair distortion. That Lara did something so unstable prior to getting pregnant tells me she likely already had severe mental health issues that needed addressing, and given that behavior, her postpartum mental health issues shouldn’t be a surprise.

******************SAFETY ZONE (NO MORE SPOILERS)*****************

At the end of the day, I found the book to be really well written , and with few exceptions, an honest – and painful – portrayal of the challenges of infertility and postpartum depression (or psychosis). From the strains on her marriage to her mixed feelings about her baby, to the judgement she felt coming from every direction about every decision she made about her family, it all felt a little like I was walking backwards in time, experiencing it all again. I can’t say how someone with none of these experiences will process this book. It is fiction, but taken with a grain of salt, it could be very enlightening. For those who have been some of the places Lara has been, it might be a bit too painful and sometimes frustrating, but also quite validating, too. Either way, a book worth reading.

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