Since the death of her newborn baby, lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom Sarah Shaw has been struggling to keep it together for her law professor husband and two young sons. With her husband burying himself in his career and her friendships all having withered, she is lost in a private world of grief. Then one day, walking in LA, Sarah s heart catches at the sight of a young homeless woman pushing a baby in a stroller and saving them becomes her mission. An unlikely bond grows between Sarah and the mother, Josie, whose pride and strained relationship with her own mother prevent her from going home to Oakland. Through her friendship with Josie, Sarah slowly learns that those we love are never far, even in death and that sometimes it is the people we set out to save who save us. Shelter Us speaks to the quiet joys and anxieties of parenthood, and illuminates the place all parents know: that shadowy space between unconditional love and fear of unbearable loss.
Laura Nicole Diamond is the award-winning author of SHELTER US: A Novel, winner of a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards, a 2015 SCIBA Fiction Award Finalist, and ALA Sophie Brody Award nominee. She is the editor of DELIVER ME: True Confessions of Motherhood, a collection of true stories by 20 writers. A civil rights lawyer and former Editor-In-Chief of L.A. Family Magazine, Laura writes about family, parenting, and social justice on her blog, Confessions of Motherhood (www.Confessionsofmotherhood.com). Laura serves on the Board of Trustees of PATH (People Assisting the Homeless). Laura is a native of Los Angeles, where she resides with her family.
Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.
The grief of losing a child is said to be one of the most painful and devastating, particularly when the child is an infant. My brother died of SIDS when he was six weeks old about 31 years ago, and I remember how debilitating that loss was for our entire family, particularly my parents, and that grief still resonates for my mother all these years later.
Sarah Shaw isn't sure she wants to recover after the accidental death of her infant daughter. But everyone tells her she needs to pull herself together and start living life again, especially to bring some normalcy back into the lives of her two young sons. Everyone, including her husband, watches her cautiously, expecting her to fall apart again. But it isn't too long before her husband gets caught up in the demands of work, leaving her to take care of their sons, despite that she is afraid something might go unexpectedly wrong at every turn.
One day she sees a young homeless woman pushing her baby in a stroller, and it taps into emotions Sarah thought she had dammed up. She pursues the woman, Josie, trying to help her, but Josie is wary of this woman suddenly wanting to help. Eventually, the two form an unlikely relationship of sorts, with Sarah determined to save Josie and her daughter. But Sarah doesn't understand the extent to which her help is needed, and she doesn't anticipate the toll this relationship will take on her own life, her marriage, and her psyche. All she knows is that saving Josie is key to saving herself.
How far would you go to help a stranger in need? What would you sacrifice for this help? Shelter Us attempts to answer those questions, filtered through a woman at the end of her emotional rope. But this type of behavior, obsessing over one problem because you can't control another, is far too common, and this book does an excellent job at exploring how a person can lose sight of what they're doing when lost in their own emotional issues.
This book is sad and hopeful, and Laura Nicole Diamond does a terrific job creating a situation that seems all too real and all too believable. The reader knows what Sarah is doing is out of control, but you understand why she is doing it. This is Diamond's debut novel, and she definitely proves that she is a writer worth watching in the future.
3.5 stars It was okay. I have such a soft heart, I'm drawn to descriptions of women helping women. In this case a young, homeless girl with a baby. Sarah wants to help Josie and her little boy, but her husband makes it clear she should not get involved. Sarah begins sneaking around to see Josie, and she begins to spiral into other secrets and lies. It gets a bit long in the middle, and I was anxious for it to speed up. Sarah's husband is quite a guy, and I'm impressed with him and how he handles the circumstances that come his way. A beach read!
The story is about two women, Sarah and Josie. Sarah is a former lawyer, but now she's a suburban stay-at-home mom. She is grappling with grief and looking for meaning in her life. Josie is a young homeless mother down on her luck unexpectedly. The two of them have a fender-bender in Downtown Los Angeles. Sarah becomes fixated on this young mother and her toddler. The story is about their burgeoning relationship and how they challenge each other and help each other find some healing.
The novel begins with the loss of Sarah's infant daughter, which the author wrote in such an immersive and poignant way. The guilt that she feels is heartbreaking. The book is about her healing and her longing for meaning and a connection with people. It's also about survival, resilience, love, hope, and all those things that grab the human heart.
Shelter Us is an engaging and memorable story of family, grief and healing. Sarah, mother and wife, befriends a young homeless woman with a baby, who affects her life more than anticipated. The story drew me in and made me read the book in one sitting, reflecting on family, life and how we can help each other. As a mother I could recognize myself in the everyday family life with the stress and hard work that goes into taking care of small children, especially difficult for Sarah since she is struggling to find her bearings after tragic loss.
Beautifully told in powerful detail Shelter Us is though-provoking and provides great material for discussions on family, charity and healing. An inspirational book full of heart and compassion!
I received a free book to read and write a review. This is a hard subject to write about (losing a child) and the Author Laura Nicole Diamond did a beautiful job. I felt like the characters were people I could relate to, people I would be friends with. The author told a hard story without making me feel sad through out the whole book. I really enjoyed this book and the authors writing style. Definitely would recommend to others.
Should I put this book down for Jewish fiction? Probably not; it’s so nominally Jewish! But I still found it through the Jewish Book Council, so I’m counting it! :P
The publisher is the hybrid She Writes Press, which I’m thinking about more than usual this month (November), because its founder, Brooke Warner, hosts a weekly writing podcast with Grant Faulkner, the director of NaNoWriMo!
I think SWP leaned a bit too heavily into Judaism in their press copy (maybe they tailored it specifically for JBC.) It reads: “Sarah turns to Judaism for guidance” after the death of her infant daughter, and that the novel “suggests that Judaism’s power is not in providing firm answers but rather in guiding us how to act when we’re alive.” Methinks those quotes are doing a lot of heavy lifting for some Jewish-inspired paragraphs that mostly exist in backstory! Although I do appreciate how the title comes from the Hashkivenu prayer.
And ostensibly, I do agree that this novel eschews easy answers and rather just sits with the messy parts of being alive and experiencing grief. The book opens a couple of years after Sarah and her husband, Robert, lose their daughter, Ella, to a freak accident when she’s an infant. Sarah has left her job and provides as a stay-at-home mother to her two boys, though she still struggles often with being emotionally present. Still, she’s in a routine until something jars her out of it—she has a minor car accident after being taken with a young homeless mother and son on the streets of LA. Sarah grows obsessed with these two, ultimately tracking them down and starting a secret relationship with the pair, Josie and Tyler.
It's secret because Robert is understandably wary when Sarah divulges her desire to open their home to these strangers. And secrets are a big part of this book going forward. It’s a rather normal human trait, more like self-sabotaging relationships than anything else, which could turn some readers away from this book and character. I appreciate that Sarah is flawed. Even her interest in Josie seems flawed, selfish, wrapped up in her own angst about family. Diamond, who works with the homeless herself, pops in some examples of how one might volunteer to combat the more systemic issue at play, but Sarah’s feels are about Josie and Tyler specifically.
Sarah ends up driving Josie home due to a dramatic event in her own family, and while away from her husband, she engages in a one-night stand with her high school boyfriend. Again, the affair is understandable to me, because Diamond deftly explored how Sarah and Robert are kind of on their own tracts, and not dealing honestly with their grief together. And Sarah and high school boyfriend have some unfinished business, though I kinda wish this whole thing were more threaded into the story rather than introduced to us as sudden backstory right before we learn of this boyfriend’s existence.
On the topic of criticisms, a couple of the secondary characters—like Sarah’s bitchy neighbor, Sarah’s judgmental mother-in-law, and high school boyfriend himself—were a little too one dimensional for my tastes. I didn’t really believe they were people, beyond the needs of the plot. I also think some of the conflict instigated in more convenient than realistic ways.
On a related note, I may be Team Flawed Characters, but dang was Sarah frustrating in how she refused to own up to the affair (and, to a lesser extent, her relationship with Josie). It’s the lying more than anything that got to me, the way she had all these chances to come clean. Again, it’s natural for people to self-sabotage, but I couldn’t help but think that Diamond was moving towards a redemptive ending. And it felt unearned, in part, because we didn’t really see Sarah or Robert (he had a sudden job-related secret pop up) even ask forgiveness, or go through the other stages of repentance that are still fresh in my mind after reading Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s book on the subject. :P Speaking of making this novel much more Jewish in tone!
Still, they ultimately grappled with their grief together, which provided more than enough pathos. We also got to see them, Sarah especially, in the messiness of parenting their sons. The boys’ characterization was a little bit iffy, but methinks it’s very difficult to write the toddler and pre-school aged set. It’s a whole different world!
So yeah, ultimately more good than bad in this book. It was a propulsive read, too. Writing style was a little pedestrian, but the themes certainly elevated it.
What a beautiful, heartrending, ultimately hopeful story this is! I absolutely loved this book by Laura Nicole Diamond; it is gorgeously written, deeply felt, and set with such detail of character, plot, and emotion that a narrative about motherhood, loss, and the meaning of life becomes a true page-turner.
Told from the point of view of Sarah, a former attorney and married mother of two boys who has lost her six-week-old daughter to crib death, we follow her tumultuous trajectory through grief, self-examination, and a fascination with, and compulsion to help, a young homeless mother she stumbles upon in downtown Los Angeles. Distanced from her husband by a mix of his work demands and her own emotional turmoil, Sarah finds herself so drawn to the young woman that she takes some dubious risks, and makes some questionable choices, that not only cause her to question her own motives, but put her marriage and the life she's attempted to rebuild in serious jeopardy. How she struggles to resolve each layer and nuance of this tsunami of issues becomes the churning center of Shelter Us.
As a native of Los Angeles, I particularly enjoyed the specificity of her "place," picturing each turn of the road and image up ahead! As a mother, I reveled in her absolutely spot-on descriptions of the many elements of "mother love," that powerful emotional world of indescribable, passionate love and never-ending need and frustration. Her illuminations on loss and grief will, no doubt, resonate deeply with anyone who's lost someone they loved, particularly a young child to unexpected death. In fact, every element of this story rang true and deep, with its resolution built on compassion, forgiveness, and love the most salient of its themes.
A deeply satisfying read that I heartily recommend, I will be sure to follow this writer to whatever is next.
You know how sometimes you hear a book has a subtext you have strong personal feelings about, and you are not sure you're going to want to read it? Well, that was my apprehension about Shelter Us. It hits on two biggies for me: homelessness and dealing with the death of a child (this is not really a spoiler, you find out about these themes pretty much right away). But boy, am I glad I did read it! Diamond deals with both of these issues, but in a very organic, natural (non-preachy) way. They are just a part of the main character's life. And they are woven throughout in a seamless way. And I really enjoyed getting to know this main character, Sarah. I was very drawn into her story right away. I felt like I knew her. Even though she is reeling from a terrible loss, her day to day life seems very familiar. Yes, she is facing this trauma. But she also has the everyday responsibilities of a mother of young children. And as the book progressed, I found myself very eager to see what was going to happen. I wanted to know how it was all going to end, to resolve. There are parts of the story that I wouldn't have expected, but I felt that things came full circle for Sarah and her family. Altogether an excellent read!
Way back in the 1970s , a very popular Labour Prime Minster of NZ, Norman Kirk, famously made the comment “New Zealanders don't want much, just someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for." “Shelter Us” brings home this poignant message, which I am sure is still true for most of us everyhere, whatever our country or our culture. Sarah has lost one of the people, the very smallest, she loves, and her grief and how she tries to balance this with her love of the other, equally precious members of her family is the bedrock of this lovely story. When her heart goes out to a homeless young woman and her baby, she tips into her own crisis; a crisis which brings home another truth —“There but for the grace of good fortune go I.”
A lovely, sad, happy, conflicted tale of loss, mother and family love, compassion, questionable moments, redemption, and forgiveness. I found this roller coaster of emotional events a wonderfully written story. For me, it was a page turner full of surprises, both sorrowful and joyful.
I won this book via Goodreads First Reads. This was a great story. I read this book about loss, real life, marriage, children, all while pondering my own life in just two days. This was a great read and I look forward to reading more by this author.
This is a beautifully written story that shows sometimes in order to save ourselves we first have to save others. The characters are well drawn, likable and realistically flawed. I found the novel heart-wrenching yet hopeful.
Touchingly Brilliant!! I absolutely devoured this book!! You know that means it is amazing! No review I could write would do this story justice. Few stories touch me in this way. So, I will do the best I can…. Laura Nicole Diamond writes a truly evocative story. Her words are so brilliantly weaved together, making this a gift for me to read. I was enamored by each sentence. Some people are meant to write, and Laura Nicole Diamond is definitely one of those writers. “Shelter Us” is a story that will stay with you. There are some things you will never look at the same, and things you will think about that may have once seemed “invisible”. I felt such empathy for Sarah, because her daughter, Ella had passed away after only being alive for a mere six weeks. Ella was found in her crib asphyxiated by her sheet, and Sarah believes she is to blame and cannot forgive herself. Ella has been dead for three years, and the grief is still so strong that it is literally taking all of the joy out of Sarah’s life. Sarah feels that her husband, Robert is getting along just fine. He goes to work, takes care of the family, and he is an amazing father to their sons Oliver and Izzy. Sarah is barely getting by and cannot fathom how Robert is managing so well. I respected how both Sarah and Robert would both drop everything for their children. Even if they were in the middle of a crisis, the boys came first. They made sure that they did not need for anything. Maybe they were trying to make peace with losing Ella, by being “perfectly present parents” to Oliver and Izzy. They had a lot of making up to do. Sarah is barely getting through each day and beyond distraught about so many things. Her marriage is crumbling without either noticing. An odd silence is building between them and it is certainly waning on their marriage. Their relationship seems to be running on autopilot, and a lot of things go awry. Secrets are kept, feelings are not discussed, and they are both dissolving. She just tries to push through each step of her day, finally to go to bed thinking that “We have made it through another day”. I must admit that I was exhausted just reading about how difficult simple everyday tasks were for her, I often felt like she was trying to get out of quicksand. You know a story is good when you want to jump in and help save a character, or become their friend. I felt awful when Sarah was able to get some time to herself and her first thought is, “I’ll finally get a break from holding my pieces together”. She needed something. Unsure of what that something was. Then, one day she is driving downtown when she passes by a young woman named Josie with a child in a stroller, apparently homeless. Sarah pulled over to give her Oliver’s lunch box filled with his meal for school. Sarah was so drawn to help this girl and her child. Will saving this homeless girl somehow fix the hole in her heart? Or, would this whole thing be a bad idea? Who would be saving who, if she did help? Who is the person that needs shelter? Is it anyone in particular, or everyone? Anyone that reads my reviews knows that I do not like to give the story away…so, I will stop here, so that you can truly enjoy each turn of the page of this wonderfully crafted story.
"My heart wants to spill out onto the square of sidewalk, flood the street with gratitude for making me feel like I'm not a fool, like what I've done is not nothing, when I know it is."
Shelter Us, a novel by Laura Nicole Diamond is thought provoking as the author dives into the depth of the human spirit and does so with rich prose that touches on your heartstrings. There are moments of such profound grief that I unconsciously found myself holding my breath. I could understand this kind of loss and despair.
Sarah's internal voice registers loud and clear. I connected to her uncertainty and vulnerability. I recognized it before I even read the words. Her insecurity, she wears like a glove.
I have had a different kind of loss, but the human suffering is similar, relatable and in this case, mesmerizing. "I feel like a boiling pot whose lid has been adjusted to let some steam escape." I know this feeling. I am right there with her. In the moment. During her lowest of lows. Those inner voices, suffocating her, I do understand. Poignant.
Shelter Us is worth savoring, as I tried not to read so fast, I wanted to take it all in and not miss out on one precious scene that this heartfelt narrative had to offer. Knowing that this was fiction it read like a memoir with a natural flow and realistic happenings. Still, I had to focus on not letting the tears rush down my cheeks. I connected to it and I couldn't help but be emotionally involved.
This is a very good story that moved me and lured me in from the onset. A parent's worse nightmare and yet I couldn't look away. Like a bad traffic accident where it's close to impossible not to look. I enjoyed how this was told and could see it playing out in front of my eyes. Very good visual descriptions and great inner details that had me care about someone that I didn't know and doesn't even exist. Also enjoyed that it took place in Los Angeles, my birthplace. I know Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica well and maybe Downtown Los Angeles a bit less but I could see and smell the landscaping.
Shelter Us feels very authentic and realistic. I languished over every word.
"I walk into their room and immediately forget that I'm on a sock-finding mission, and instead start picturing where I could set up a portable crib for that homeless baby. There's room in the middle, maybe. Could this house be their haven? This is insane. I have to look for them again. I have to find them. As soon as Joan and the boys leave, that's what I'll do. I feel the hot, sultry relief of giving in to compulsion."
Thanks goes to GOODREADS for this First Reads win, for my honest review. This novel is about marriage, motherhood, fatherhood, loss and healing. Sarah and Robert are living a very fragile life, due to a shattering loss. They both deal with the loss in different ways, Sarah lives her life in fears, that she will have another life altering loss, she fears she is not a good mother. Sarah stumbles through her day with her two boys. She is trying to keep her sanity during her most difficult time in her life. Robert chooses to work. He tries to be attentive to Sarah and the boys but seems to be working more than usual. Sarah sees a homeless woman and a baby, she becomes obsessed with the two. She goes looking for them, one thing leads to another, there is a lot of confusion for Sarah. She has to face her loss, and she feels that somehow this homeless mom and child will help her heal. This was an interesting read, I did feel that the story dragged in some parts, but I completely understand the reasoning behind Sarah's reaction to the tragedy that happened in her life, I am not sure that I would have made it though it. I liked the writing style, and the ending was hopeful, and makes me remember that we are survivors as a whole. Life is wonderful, but life is hard, confusing and very challenging. Thanks again, GOODREADS, you are awesome!
I always like to start with my disclaimer: I am reading my way through the She Writes Press authors. That said, there are some books I might not have chosen given my reading preferences—mysteries and thrillers. This has been a rewarding experience, though, otherwise I might not have picked up Shelter Us. The writing alone makes this book a brilliant read. From the tragic beginning, we understand that Sarah, former lawyer, now stay-at-home mom struggles daily with her thoughts; thoughts about her own mother, the daughter she lost, the sons she must now keep alive. It’s almost too much for one person to bear, until she comes across Josie, a homeless mother of a toddler. It is Josie, rather than any of the other responsibilities of Sarah’s life, that demand her to pay attention to something outside of herself. This is the journey that Laura Diamond takes us on, with skill, humility, humor and sagacity. And a little obliviousness, too, as we cringe when Sarah makes all the wrong decisions on the way through her grief. Grief is different and personal for everyone; no one can say when and how someone should deal with it. Shelter Us gives us a view into how one woman makes her way through the devastation of loss and the difficult path back to knowing who she is now. It is a beautifully written account of such a journey and one I would highly recommend.
his is not an easy book to read. It covers the tough subject of loss of a child, a baby. Sarah Shaw and her husband are both grieving for their loss while trying to keep it together for their two young sons. I knew picking it up that it would be a book that would tug at my heart. It definitely did that. Laura Nicole Diamond took a tough subject and handled it with a lot of care and respect. It was brought to my attention that although one may seem fine, especially after a traumatic event, things may not be as they appear.
Sarah and her husband are both strong characters. They show how they each dealt with their grief, yet they didn’t know how to deal with each other’s grief. It showed how a relationship can be easily broke apart and also how it can be brought back together and healed. The love between these two is evident from the beginning. Although, I hate to see a couple struggle I feel like this struggle actually worked in their favor and brought them closer together.
Shelter Us is not a typical beach read, yet I definitely recommend it as a summer read. Do not wait to get your copy.
“Our lives are knit together by the strongest weaving, durable enough to withstand the pulls and tugs of mistakes and regret.” This is only one of many observations in Laura Diamond’s Shelter Us, that resonated, and brought the story of a young mother with complicated responses to the collision of family, professional, social and personal needs to a dramatic head. If you are a person whose life includes similar complications of love and loss, and if you enjoy beautiful writing brought to the service of a nuanced story, then Shelter Us is a confirmation that life’s challenges can and should be coped with through sensitivity and resilience. “It’s drearily familiar, this functioning on autopilot with dread in my gut,” gives way to a resolution that is hopeful, tender, and demonstrative of Diamond’s uplifting embrace of social justice and true-to-life relationships.
Shelter Us is the story of a woman whose daughter died at the age of six weeks. Now, several years later, the mother of two preschool sons is still overwhelmed by her daughter's death and barely functioning. When she becomes obsessed with a young homeless woman and her baby, her life changes, and her marriage is in jeopardy.
I was hesitant to read this book, mainly because it involves the death of a child, but I'm glad I stayed with it. It was nicely written and edited, and the story was compelling. The author takes her readers deep inside her character, and the plot will stay with me for a long time.
I can relate to this book since I have recently lost 5 people in my life I loved. Grief is the hardest things I ever have dealt with in my life. A former lawyer loses her newborn daughter and she still has two other children at home to care for. Her hubby is too busy to help her with anything and maybe he is in denial himself. Her friends do not support her either. But she meets a lady and they become friends and this friend help her to get out being lost in grief. This book is about grief and healing.
Sarah’s baby dies @ 6 weeks old. She and her family are traumatized. We share Sarah’s struggle to deal with the aftermath even years later. She is drawn to help a homeless mother and her child. However, her husband is not understanding so Sarah lies. She lies and betrays her husband. When her husband finds out, ultimately he is understanding as he feels guilty for the way he has dealt with the death of his child. He is a little too understanding and everything ends pretty neat. However, it was an interesting journey sharing Sarah’s struggle of grief.