The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis

Ava Carson will do anything to save herself. When she finds herself and her ten-year-old son, Toussaint living in a squalid family shelter, she is determined to get out and better their lives.

She plans to head to her estranged mother in Alabama but on reuniting with her former flame, everything changes for the worst.

Ava Carson has been running her entire life. Leaving an abusive marriage, she finds herself and her ten-year-old son Toussaint living in a horrendous family shelter. A place full of squalor, poverty and illicit happenings.

Determined to get out and better their lives, she makes the move for freedom. She plans to return to her childhood home in Bonaparte, Alabama and reunite with her estranged mother, Duchess. However, when reunited with her child’s biological father, Cass, her focus drifts.

Infatuated, she hesitantly welcomes communal living. She continues to follow the dreams of an increasingly maddening Cass, a former Black Panther, rebel and nefarious con man.

Things go from bad to worse as police interest in the property drives further paranoia.

As Ava falls deeper, Toussaint does too. He begins to lose himself and his childhood innocence amidst the unsettled madness.

A mother’s ambition and a son’s destruction

An emotionally charged story, The Unsettled is brimming with turmoil. Though the writing is vivid and descriptive, many characters are unlikable.

I particularly disliked Ava. Never truly satisfied, she’s selfish, weak and delusional. Her own needs come before her son too often, damaging him greatly.

Interestingly, it’s told in multiple narratives from the perspective of three generations. Ava and Toussaint in Philadelphia and Duchess in fictional Bonaparte, Alabama. This is a nice touch, giving a thorough background of generational trauma.

A heavy read, the novel explores difficult themes including poverty, racism, abandonment and abuse.

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis was released on September 26 2023 via Knopf.

I personally have read The Unsettled. However, I did receive a complimentary copy of this book via Netgalley and this post does contain affiliate links.

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