Unsheltered, Clare Moleta

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Up front, it was utterly impossible to avoid comparisons with McCarthy's THE ROAD right from the start of this novel, so I gave up trying not to. Dystopian in nature, thriller in intent, UNSHELTERED is yet another one of those novels that I suspect will spark widely different reactions, and opinions.

A bold noir undertaking, this is the story of a woman's search for her missing daughter. A daughter Li never really wanted in the first place, although now eight-year-old Matti is missing, all she wants is to get her back.

Set within the dual conflicts of climate and societal breakdown, the dystopian future outlined in this novel feels very real (possibly helped by living in a country besieged by fires and floods of epic proportions at the moment), so the concept that a society collapsing in on itself can become so ... well feral ... is a sobering prospect indeed. And this is possibly where UNSHELTERED is at its best. It's a gruelling, emotional journey, and readers will need to develop a very close and binding relationship with the characters in this novel, because the setting is so fraught, so confronting and so dire it could be too much for some.

It's also an incredibly raw, and reflective trawl through the best and worst of humanity, which will engage with readers prepared to do some work - no speech marks, sudden timeline switches and time spent closely inside the protagonists heads, all make for a challenging, and sometimes downright confusing and confronting read, all of which felt very much by design. UNSHELTERED demands that the reader go on Li's journey with her - through every move, thought, doubt and misstep. You have to feel her fear, joy, disquiet, hate, love and failure just as she feels it. You may have to work at surviving UNSHELTERED just like she did.


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As the resourceful, relentless Li tracks her lost daughter across a disintegrating country, the journey will test the limits of her trust, her hope and her love. Unsheltered will leave you wrung out and gasping.

Relentlessly propulsive and profoundly moving, Unsheltered taps into some of our worst fears and most implacable motivations, marking the emergence of a fully-formed and urgent literary voice.

Against a background of social breakdown and destructive weather, Unsheltered tells the story of a woman’s search for her daughter. Li never wanted to bring a child into a world like this but now that eight-year-old Matti is missing, she will stop at nothing to find her.

As she crosses the great barren country alone and on foot, living on what she can find and fuelled by visions of her daughter just out of sight ahead, Li will have every instinct tested. She knows the odds against her: an uncompromising landscape, an uncaring system, time running out, and the risks of any encounters on the road. But her own failings and uncertainty might be the greatest obstacle of all. Because even if she finds her, how can she hope to shield Matti from the future?

Review Unsheltered, Clare Moleta
Karen Chisholm
Sunday, November 27, 2022

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