Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott


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?

Leave it to the writer whose critically acclaimed debut had us “laughing and crying on the same page” (NPR) to illuminate what it means to move through life with a soul made of equal parts anxiety and optimism (and while she’s at it, to ponder the mysteries of backyard turtles and the challenges of spatchcocking a turkey).

What I thought

Firstly, I just adore this quirky cover featuring the turtle, Frank that lives on Mary Laura’s property. What a beauty. Don’t you love it?

With advanced praise from bestselling author Lori Gottlieb and the New York Times, Bomb Shelter was a tremendous read. It was a completely compulsive one for me, and I devoured the book in two days, unable to put it down.

The book is essentially a collection of essays that touch on life, relationships, growing older, and grief. Incredibly impactful and thought-provoking, it kept me up well into the night. 

Mary Laura tells each story while reminiscing on the past, bringing tales of nostalgia into the future moments which is really quite beautiful. She shares intimate moments from her childhood and the raising of her own children. Philpott’s unrelenting love for her kids is felt so deeply through her words. She’s also so vivid in her descriptions that I feel I could have been there with her at any time through the book. 

Even while talking about the darkest of subjects, Mary Laura manages to do so while somehow making her readers laugh the loudest of laughs. 

Also, there’s a chapter called Turtles, Turtles, Turtles, and another called Calm Yourself, and those two as stand-alone stories are enough of a reason to pick this one up. Mary Laura’s humour shines bright throughout, but especially here for me. I mean, I’m not even touching on a chapter devoted to cholesterol, which almost had me on the floor in giggles. Bomb Shelter just got better and better, the more I read. 

I felt a lovely closeness to Philpott after I finished reading, almost as though I knew her, or at least wanted to, and I really didn’t want the book to end. At times, it felt like a conversation between myself and Mary Laura, with her baring so much of herself in this truly wonderful book, and really leaning into her vulnerability, never once holding back. 

I haven’t read her debut, Miss You When I Blink, but I’ve just ordered a copy, feeling a craving for more of Mary Laura’s writing. There are few books I keep on my shelf, usually passing finished books onto others, but I’ll find it hard to part with this one.

Mary Laura Philpott by Heidi Ross

Mary Laura Philpott, author of the national bestseller I Miss You When I Blink, writes essays that examine the overlap of the absurd and the profound in everyday life. Her writing has been featured frequently by The New York Times and appears in such outlets as The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Real Simple, and more. A former bookseller, she also hosted an interview program on Nashville Public Television for several years. Mary Laura lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

Bomb Shelter comes out tomorrow, and is available for pre-order now at Indigo. Please also consider signing up for Mary Laura's newsletter — it's fabulous.

I received an advanced reader copy from Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for this review.