I was triggered. I was struck to my core — all kinds of overripe feelings and neglected memories shook loose — by Mary Laura Philpott, or more precisely, by her new masterwork, Bomb Shelter ... Just-fineness is not a register in which a writer like Philpott ...can dwell. And that’s where her genius comes in: Her book is about so much more. It’s about a certain kind of love that’s inextricably bound up with the fear of loss ... It is also a spot-on portrait of the complex melancholy of early middle age ... I want to say something negative about this book. To be this positive is, I fear, to sound like a nitwit. So, to nitpick: There’s some unevenness to the quality of the sentences in the final chapter. But there’s no fun in pointing that out; Philpott already knows. 'I’m telling this story now in present tense,' she writes. 'I’m still in it, not yet able to shape it from the future’s perspective.'
With Bomb Shelter, billed as a memoir in essays, Philpott brings us a beautifully wrought ode to life ... Philpott brings her own special blend of dread and hope to this treatise on the fragility of life ... She infuses her writing with an abundance of insight ... For good reason, Philpott has been compared to Nora Ephron, Erma Bombeck and Anne Lamott ... Philpott can spin copy from the stuff of life with the best of them, aiming her talent at a new generation of mid-lifers, who could use a book that speaks to them. And like her antecedents, Philpott possesses that rare ability to dole out prose that’s equal parts comedy and pathos, tragedy and celebration ... We who walk the earth believing that all our good fortune could spontaneously combust at any moment are precisely those who will find Bomb Shelter as endearing as it is readable ... 'I am obsessed with death because I am in love with life,' Philpott writes. 'I’m sad because I’m so happy.' We hear you, Mary Laura. And know that your love affair with life, fraught as it is, is a precious gift to the world.
Philpott’s greatest gift as a writer is her ability to tell a story as if she is simply sharing the events of her day with a friend. A master of the timely digression, she is as skilled at handling painful subjects as she is offering hilarious glimpses inside her life and mind, and she often intersperses the two with great effect ... Readers will likely identify with many of her struggles, even as her comical take on reality allows them to temporarily forget their own ... Philpott has provided her readers a very sturdy bomb shelter indeed.