Book Review: Bomb Shelter
Mary Laura Philpott shows how existential fear can translate into hope
All her life, Mary Laura Philpott has been a worrier. From a young age, she has categorized catastrophes and dangers, analyzing what is more urgent (like kidnapping and shootings) versus what can take a back seat (like volcanic eruptions and spacecraft explosions).
But when she and her husband find their teenage son unconscious on the bathroom floor at 4 a.m., the anxiety goes into overdrive. What follows includes diagnosis, familial adjustments, and a whole slew of other obstacles, all filtered neatly and precisely through the calculation of danger that Philpott has come to apply to her life.
Don't write her off as a cynic, though: Philpott has an exceptionally sunny disposition for someone who is such a chronic worrier. As a reader, many may feel seen by this combination, as this author certainly does. Going through life as a worrier can make the positives feel impossible, but Philpott and her writing are proof that apprehension and fear can make those positives shine even brighter.
Told via a series of essays, Philpott's memoir Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives examines big questions about life, death, and fear that many over-thinkers will recognize as familiar thoughts and feelings. Interwoven well between the past and the present — from childhood and the origins of the worrying to present-day events — Philpott's writing is staggeringly hopeful and often hilarious in its approach to the often wondered question: if this happened, what else could happen? And how do we keep going from here? — Ally Kutz
Atria Books // 288 pages // Non-fiction, Memoir