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Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott

Bomb Shelter

by Mary Laura Philpott
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Quick take

This witty, warm collection highlights a family coming together and growing stronger as they face a son’s epilepsy.

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    Fast read

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama


A lifelong worrier, Philpott always kept an eye out for danger, a habit that only intensified when she became a parent. But she looked on the bright side, too, believing that as long as she cared enough, she could keep her loved ones safe.

Then, in the dark of one quiet, pre-dawn morning, she woke abruptly to a terrible sound—and found her teenage son unconscious on the floor. In the aftermath of a crisis that darkened her signature sunny spirit, she wondered: If this happened, what else could happen? And how do any of us keep going when we can’t know for sure what’s coming next?

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Why I love it

One day in my middle school years, I walked past the bathroom I shared with my little brother and he was shaking in a strange way. I thought it must be a prank so I gave him a light, playful shove. But then he fell into our bathtub and kept shaking. Not long after that my brother would be diagnosed with pediatric epilepsy. He would eventually grow out of his seizures and we can now laugh about that day, but for many years he and my family lived in fear that he might collapse in a fit of shakes and not have someone around to help. So imagine my shock on my first encounter with Mary Laura Philpott’s new essay collection, Bomb Shelter... Here was the experience of my family and millions of others related with startling lucidity but also humor and wisdom.

Like Philpott’s previous collection, this is a roving book possessed of a warm heart and lots of curiosity. Not all of the essays are directly about her son and his epilepsy, but each is animated by that sense of life’s inherent fragility that the illness can often put in sharp relief. Some of the informative and often quite funny topics Philpott covers along this journey include adolescent reading habits, “world turtle theory,” Camp David, and how to spatchcock turkey. There really is something here for every reader.

My personal connection to Bomb Shelter aside, I must also take a moment to shout out its unique and engaging language with all of the hallmarks of its author’s signature style. Philpott has an uncanny eye for the strangeness lurking in everyday life. So go add this book to your box and let yourself be led by one of our most compelling literary guides!

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