Review: Unsheltered by Clare Moleta

Unsheltered, the debut Australian novel for Literary Imprint Scribner Australia, and the debut novel for Clare Moleta invites readers into a world that is unsettling, frightening and perhaps just that little bit too real. Set sometime in the future, Li is living in a country that is very similar, but not quite the same as Australia. Think of it as being an almost alternate universe version of Australia, where some of the geography is a bit different. Then add in the fact that the future is starting to go very wrong. This is a land that has gone to ruin from climate change, and Li, her partner Frank and their daughter Matti are all trying to live as best they can. Certain catastrophic events lead to the family trying to make their way East (essentially the area east of the Great Dividing Range,) which has suffered less traumatic weather events. Everyone wants to be there to make a better life, and no one is welcome. The trip is fraught with danger, and soon Frank is no longer there. And it isn't long before Li becomes separated from her daughter. And she will go to any length, no matter how dangerous to get her daughter back ...

Unsheltered is most definitely the stuff of nightmares. I don't mean that in a negative way. The author has very deftly created a harsh and frightening world. She has a lot to say about climate change, and the abhorrent way we treat refugees. The pacing and flashbacks give the novel a very dreamlike feel--and it is a scary dream indeed. I'm tempted to use a description like gothic-dystopia meets Mad Max. But, somehow, that feels disrespectful. 

Juxtaposed against the fear is the sheer love that Li has for her daughter, and it is this that causes her to push on, no matter how bad things get. For me, that was what truly held this novel together and kept me turning page after page. I think this will very much appeal to readers who enjoyed Kate Mildenhall's The Mother Fault, and for those looking for a book that is unique, challenging and, ultimately, unputdownable.


Thank you to Scribner Australia/Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of Unsheltered

This book counts toward my reading goal for the Aussie Author Challenge 2021


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