‘Bomb Shelter’ review: Mary Laura Philpott balances life, death, humor and trauma in new essay | Arts

Mary Laura Philpott is no stranger to introducing her readers to her relationship with adulthood via essays. In her debut compilation, “I Miss You When I Blink,” Philpott explores her journey to break free from the mundane traditional path of adulthood and reinvent herself into the person she is today.

In “Bomb Shelter: Love, Time, and Other Explosives,” Philpott takes readers a little further and a little deeper into his world than his earlier novel. She focuses on her worries about motherhood, her fears of life and death, and the general anxieties that swirl inside her. And she does this by bouncing back and forth between the story of her son’s life-threatening crisis and various mundane events that seem almost painfully insignificant compared to the first. “Bomb Shelter” is a much darker and deeper novel than readers have seen from Philpott before. By letting his humorous personality and honesty drive the narrative, Philpott honors his trauma, anxiety, grief, fears, and most importantly, hopes, while inspiring readers to do the same.

Perhaps the novel’s most intriguing appeal is Philpott’s brutality. It combines a childish quality of having no “filter” with the serious content of the trials and tribulations of adult life, which creates a jarring yet humorous contrast. Perhaps the quote that best sums up the spirit of the whole novel is revealed in the early chapters: “When you’re a kid who believes his brain can stop planes from crashing, that’s imaginative and precocious. . When you’re an adult who thinks your own mind is what keeps everything safe, that’s called anxiety. Philpott is brutally honest about those little moments that so many can relate to but never say out loud.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little shocking to go from an essay about how her son couldn’t recognize himself after his meltdown to an essay about how meditation apps don’t calm people down as much as they do. escape from difficult situations. emotions. The last humorous essay seems almost like a trivial concern compared to the harrowing trauma of the first. And the whole novel follows this contrast between the extreme and the banal. But Philpott, by this method, adds a kind of raw and real balance to the novel. She shows that life is really a compilation of small moments that teach us very big lessons. Philpott finally conveys that life requires a balance between “bomb” and “refuge”.

Also, the pace of the novel is quite fast and keeps the reader on their feet for the entire journey. Each essay is short enough to be read in minutes, and just when the reader thinks they’re deeply invested in the content, Philpott moves on to an entirely new topic and the cycle begins again. Philpott never lets the reader stay content or comfortable in their reading experience. Each story, each essay, each page is like a ticking time bomb leaving the reader wondering not only when the story will move on to something completely different, but also what will happen next in the stories the reader leaves behind.

The best part about this book is that it really appeals to all ages. Children will recognize the novels’ childlike nature and Philpott’s Scrooge-like humor, young adults will appreciate the book’s fast pace that is reminiscent of social media algorithms, and adults will appreciate Philpott’s honest humanity. She doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out; Philpott is real and raw, and his writing feels just like that in every way.

“Bomb Shelter” is not for the faint of heart. It’s for people who know grief, anxiety, trauma, longing, grief and loss like the back of their hand. Philpott is showing the world that she’s been there and found hope and strength through her writing. And laughing and crying with Philpott as the pages turn, so does the reader.