The Unsettled

Books on Tape. Sept. 2023. 11:27 hrs. ISBN 9780593788431. $95. F
Mathis follows her stunning debut, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, with an exquisitely drawn exploration of Black mothers seeking stability and connection within unmoored communities. After her husband kicks her out of the house, Ava Carson and her 10-year-old son, Toussaint, find refuge in a Philadelphia family shelter. Ava is disgusted by the conditions but doesn’t have the resources to leave. She is long estranged from her mother, Dutchess, who lives in the declining town of Bonaparte, AL, where Ava grew up. Meanwhile, Dutchess, who doesn’t know that she has a grandson, resists pressure from land developers, as she hopes to pass her property on to Ava. When Cass, Ava’s former lover and Toussaint’s father, reenters the picture, he persuades Ava to join his commune, where he hopes to open a neighborhood clinic. Before long, however, the commune becomes unstable, and violence seems inevitable. Narrator Bahni Turpin provides a sensitive performance of Mathis’s story, alternating between Ava’s and Dutchess’s perspectives. Turpin’s voice brims with empathy as she traces the threads in this multigenerational story of love, loss, and redemption.
VERDICT A beautifully narrated, moving story about a family caught in the chaos and confusion of social and political upheaval.
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