Title: The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 296 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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.
The Unprotected by Kelly Sokol is a starkly honest depiction of infertility and postpartum depression.
Lara James is a driven career advertising executive who never thought she would want to have children. At one time rather dismissive of her friends and family with kids, she shocks her husband Will with her sudden announcement she wants to have a baby. Pursuing pregnancy with the same single-minded focus that helped her achieve professional success, Lara is ill-prepared for a four year battle with infertility. Cautiously optimistic when she is finally pregnant, she is soon writing a detailed birth plan while designing the baby’s nursery and discussing baby names. Making a completely unexpected decision to give up her career in order to be a stay at home mom, Lara is completely stunned by the reality of sleep deprivation and a colicky baby who cries for hours on end. Even more shocking is her increasingly downward spiral of exhaustion, frightening thoughts and lack of bonding with her newborn baby.
Lara is not an easy character to like. Her relationship with her mom is contentious and she has absolutely no patience with her at all. She is rude and condescending to her sister, Bea, and she never hesitates to let her know her opinion about Bea’s decision to marry and have kids. Lara is a steamroller who does not take other people’s feelings or viewpoint into consideration. This attitude extends to her husband Will and she refuses to give up on getting pregnant despite the toll her infertility and treatments are taking on their marriage. She is also a little sly and devious as she becomes obsessed with her quest to become pregnant.
Despite her fertility problems, Lara’s pregnancy is rather easy and without complications. Her childbirth experience is not what she expected or planned for, and things continue to go downhill once she is released from the hospital with baby Auden. Exhausted and in pain, Lara struggles with breastfeeding and things worsens as Will quickly returns to work, leaving her and Auden on their own. As the situation continues to deteriorate, her fears about what would happen if she were to reveal some of her worst thoughts are understandable. However, it is somewhat incomprehensible that an intelligent, well-educated woman would not confide just how bad things are becoming. Will also carries his share of the blame for failing to recognize his wife’s exhaustion and understandable frustration with Auden’s inconsolable crying.
The Unprotected is a realistic portrayal of the shame and fear women experience when motherhood takes a dark turn. Kelly Sokol does not downplay the alarming symptoms of postpartum depression and while she shines a much needed light on this little discussed topic, it is not easy reading about Lara’s increasingly disturbing downward spiral. A tough read but one I highly recommend.