I purchased this for the cover. I know it. I could say otherwise, but the cover of Mary Laura Philpott’s Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives (Atria 2022) had me hit “select” without further consideration. I knew it was a collection of nonfiction, slice of life essays and that Philpott was known for her humor and readability, but it was the title and that turtle on the pink cover that sold me.
I probably should have looked into the collection a bit more.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a very palatable collection. It’s just not for me. While I fall within the correct age group to be part of the target audience, being childless makes the collection largely unrelatable. While I could appreciate her anxiety and fear when her son was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teen, I couldn’t fully commit to the collection as a whole.
Some of the essays are fantastic, but it’s more of a hodge-podged grouping than a cohesive collection. (There are a few essays I would have pulled completely. She could have easily focused on her kids, her husband, and her parents to center the fragility of life and love (fragile like a bomb). But the collection flitted about almost carelessly.) As a whole, I was unable to connect. If I were to explore that deeper, I could say that my “mehness” is really more about me at the point I am in my life and being childless. I also know I don’t gravitate toward nonfiction unless I really enjoy the voice or the storytelling aspect. These snippets, while palatable and well-written, don’t have the storytelling spark. (I loved Brianna Madia’s Nowhere for Very Long because she has that spark.)
I recognize that some of you will find a kindred spirit in Philpott, and that her words will spark for you. It’s just not for me.
If only the contents had lived up to the title and cover.