Cover Image: The Unsettled

The Unsettled

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Member Reviews

This book is unsettling... but in a good way.
The depth of the characters and trying to figure out what happened to them, I was hooked. I felt for them and with them.
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Very thought provoking and a story that will stay with you. A slow burn and very unsettling. 
Many thanks to Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This was a very interesting book because there was a lot of history involved and this woman kind of Find It Was part of this and it was part of the story it was pretty interesting. Ava was a very ambitious black woman. But a lot of things did not go her way. Duchess was her mother and she lived in the rural self in bonaparte alabama. Her mother was a singer and she would go on these circuits and she will bring avid with her. Then she married a man and then settled down. But it was not a very happy life for her. Because there was a lot of problems in this town, especially with the cemetery and the plantations. The white people were trying to take the land back to land grabs and people were really trying to hold on what they had. Her stepfather died and her mother just kind of lost it. So she was pretty mount basically on her own. She went up North to Philadelphia. Where she met a man in the black panther party who was a doctor. They fell in love but she became pregnant and the man seems to disappear. She ended up marrying another man and moved to New Jersey. But this was not a really good relationship for was based on fear and domestic violence. She was very unhappy, but this other man came back. And this is when the other man lost it. She fled back to Philadelphia and was standing in a shelter. But this was not going very well as well. Because she was very protective of her son.. This other man came back in terror for life. And this became a really crazy journey. And he became very Abusive to her. The sun seemed to drift along, but he was not really being helped in his life. The ending kind of ties at all together and you can see where things can happen when you do not have structure in your life. The system relieved to not help Ava at all. Because it was too rigid and she was a free spirit. The book title unsettled really says it all.
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This was my first book to read by this author but it won't be my last! This was a beautifully written novel that evokes so many emotions and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Don't miss out on this one!
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I was really excited to read a second book by this author after reading her previous work; The Twelve Tribes of Hattie  earlier this year. Needless to sat this book did not disappoint. Things I really enjoyed about this book are the author’s ability to draw the reader in and fall in love with the characters. In this case my favorite was Toussaint, I really wanted the best for him. Nothing get’s to my heart faster than family sagas and trauma and this book had it all. The relationship between Ava and Dutchess was relatable to the time period. Without giving the story away there is redemption for all in the end. I wanted more of Toussaint and his final thoughts thus 4 stars. This book was worth the wait .
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Thank you, to the publisher, for this eARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion! The story touches on familial love, racism, misogyny. This is a multigenerational novel, focused on Ava Carson and her son as they look to escape their circumstances and fight for a better life. This book was an interesting read and definitely left a mark on me. I would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy reading Historical Fiction novels.
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This book did not work well for me which is very unfortunate since I was so excited for it. I loved the begining of the book as it captured poverty and the pain and desperation perfectly. But I found the main chatacter Ava insufferable and I hated the chouces taht she made. Which made me feel bad for her son because he was being dragged down. The pacing was also a struggle for me because it all felt so disconnected. I do recommend this for anyone who likes literary fiction with these topics. 

Thank you ro Netgallet and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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by Ayana Mathis

Published by Knopf (September 26, 2023)
Hardcover $23.57
Kindle $14.99

Reviewed by Ashley Riggleson

In Ayana Mathis’ new novel, The Unsettled, the reader should never assume anything because this novel goes in some very unexpected directions.

The Unsettled tells the story of a mother and son, Ava and Toussaint, who are living in a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. Ava is fleeing from domestic violence and struggling with some mental health issues. From the outset, Ava attempts to put her life back together, but she is not very successful. Toussaint, in a state of constant instability, unsurprisingly, fails to thrive in these conditions, and he comforts himself by recalling the tales Ava has told him of his grandmother, who lives in an all-Black community in Alabama. Toussaint wants to go there more than anything, but these plans are dashed when Ava unexpectedly reconnects with an old flame, a charismatic man called Cass (Toussaint’s father), who she finds ministering to the homeless.

Instead of going to Alabama (as Ava had finally agreed to do, despite her rocky relationship with her mother), she, Cass, Toussaint, and others move into a house together where Cass has started a commune of sorts. A doctor who has been stripped of his license to practice medicine, Cass hopes to start a free clinic while getting more people to join the cause. In many ways, things at first seem to go better than expected. But the rules and regulations that Cass has put in place begin to sow discontent, and after the police raid their home, Ava begins to have doubts. Cass also becomes increasingly paranoid. What begins as a means to do good morphs into something else entirely.

Meanwhile in Alabama, Ava’s mother, Duchess, fears the loss of her land and community. Readers meet her as a lonely and eccentric woman, who is still reeling from her husband’s murder many years ago, and although Duchess is far from perfect, it is clear she still loves Ava despite their flawed relationship. In these chapters, readers learn about Ava’s back story and begin to see how trauma in Ava’s childhood influences some key decisions later in the novel.  

The Unsettled is about homelessness, manipulation, and mother/child relationships, just to name a few, but this novel is, above all, about Ava’s internal conflict. As time passes, things within the commune become ever more sinister, and although Ava has doubts, her love for Cass prevents her from acting on them. She is not, however, blind to the fact that Toussaint is not doing well in this situation, and in the end, Ava must choose between the man she loves and her son.

This fascinating novel is sure to entice many readers. Mathis’ compelling plot and well-rounded characters will keep them turning pages. In the end, The Unsettled is also more poignant than I expected. This novel struck an emotional chord which, to me, means that the author has done her job. I was invested until the last page.

This review was originally printed in FXBG Advance in Fredericksburg, VA. 

Ashley Riggleson is a freelance book reviewer from Rappahannock County. When she is not reading or writing book reviews, she can usually be found playing with her pets, listening to podcasts, or watching television with friends and family.
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This is not a book that you can like or dislike because the subject matter is tough. Ava and her young son, Toussaint, are forced to live in a homeless shelter in 1980's Philadelphia, after her husband puts them out after a visit from her ex-lover. Ava's ability to care for herself and her son was hampered by the fact that her husband had been the sole provider, and everything was in his name. 

The title is appropriate as the characters and the reader are left unsettled by this story. Ayana Mathis provides the reader with a glimpse into the fractured minds of both Ava and her mother, Dutchess. Both women are longing for something that they can't have (nor, does it seem, that they can identify).

There are plenty of topics/themes for a book discussion group, although the book group will have to be dedicated to getting through the story. There's a lot to unpack.
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This was a tough, but necessary, read! Mathis handled a sensitive topic with such reminded me of the fictional version of my reading experience with Invisible Child. Just the conditions that poor people always find themselves in - how there's so little dignity when they're down and could simply use a little care and compassion. This book makes you uncomfortable, and you have to be ok with that!
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What a powerful story! This was not an easy read, but I was glued to the pages praying for some kind of miracle for Ava and Toussaint. The message in the story is meaningful, yet will not be appreciated by all. I would recommend this book for readers who are willing to put up with damaged characters and reality rather than a satisfyingly happy ending. 
My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis is a dramatic, tragic tale, depicting people with difficult circumstances and hard beginnings, making great efforts to better their lives. Great struggles and strong characters! Thank you NetGalley, the author and publisher for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
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I read this book in a day and I never looked back! The twist and the plot were pretty easy to identify but the different POV's kept me intrigued to see how everything was going to unfold. A couple of the characters were so unlikable that it made it hard to feel bad or connect with them in any way. I do wish that the ending would've given a little more, I wanted to know how the characters dealt with the aftermath.

*I received a copy of this eARC via  NetGalley*
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I was really excited to read this book because the synopsis seemed like it was a fascinating story.  I was very much into Ava and Toussaint’s storyline!  I might be slightly biased because the story took place in Philadelphia where I am from.  But, their story was emotional and I wanted to stay there and see how they would figure a way out.  I couldn’t snuggle into Dutchess’s storyline as much because it seemed a bit disconnected to me and it lagged a bit, causing me to lose interest and Dutchess’s storyline.  The one thing that brought me back and the ending to Dutchess’s story, which felt rushed.
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This book left me unsettled. While it is beautifully written by Ayana Mathis, it's characters are flawed, angry and hurt. The setting is 1985 in Philadelphia and Ava's life is protecting her young son, Toussaint. She has bad luck in choosing men in her life. And she doesn't make the best choices for Toussaint. The other main character is Ava's mother, Dutchess. Dutchess is hanging on to hope of leaving her home to Ava, but they don't have a healthy relationship. Also Dutchess is living in an all black town, Bonaparte which is dying as the citizen leave this Alabama community. Ayana writes about this tormented family and in a way that you the reader keeps reading to find out what happens to them. I felt the ending was rushed and thus unsettling to me. This book has many discussion points for a book club but is not easy to get through.
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In exchange for an honest review, I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from Net Galley and Penguin Random House. 

The Unsettled by bestselling author Ayana Mathis is not for the faint of heart. It took me a couple of chapters before I could fully appreciate this emotionally jarring novel about a broken family and others whose lives are just as unsettled. This piece of historical fiction is a must-read if you want to get an authentic yet fictional look at Black history. 

 In mid-1980s Philadelphia, Ava Carson, and her son Toussaint ended up at the Glenn Avenue homeless shelter after being thrown out by her husband. Ava is annoyed with the unending questions asked by the intake counselor and even more sickened by the uninhabitable conditions of their room and the people who work and reside there. She’s determined to get herself and her son out of the shelter “her” way. It’s not so easy for Ava as she wrestles to keep a sound mind. Across miles, in Bonaparte, Alabama Ava’s mother Duchess Carson struggles to survive in a once-thriving town that has dwindled to a few aging residents. She lives mostly in her memories before she lost her husband, but Ava stays in the back of her thoughts as she considers her legacy. Toussaint does what Ava tells him to do but at ten years old he is losing his childhood behind their circumstances. All he wants is to be settled. When his father Cass comes back into their lives, things look better but end up becoming more complicated than before. Between Ava and Duchess, there is much to reconcile for either of them to heal from their difficult past. In the meantime, Toussaint is caught in the middle of a desolate past and an uncertain future.

As a Black woman, this story truly touched my heart for the many untold true stories like this one. Because it holds many truths for single mothers, aging elders in dying towns, and young children who are left to break generational cycles of poverty and educational disparities in Black communities.
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This book is extremely well written and serves as a powerful examination of the affects of poverty, racism and mental health on individual lives.
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Thank you to Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor, Knopf and NetGalley for an electronic Advanced Readers Copy of this novel. 

Ava and her son Toussaint end up at a shelter in Philadelphia in the mid 1980s when her husband throws her out when her ex-husband comes to their house. Ava is determined to make their stay there a short one, but societal pressure and other circumstances makes it hard to her to get out. When her ex-husband, Cass, re-appears in their lives, Ava is swept up by promises and follows him. Toussaint is confused but tries to do the best he can to accept his new life. 

Meanwhile, Ava's mother, Dutchess, is living in Alabama tries to keep her part of Bonaparte, a once thriving town of black progress and hope, out of the hands of developers. 

The Unsettled by Ayana Mathis, is a well written but very disheartening tale of families and the struggle to make things better. It's really good but the topic may not appeal to everyone.
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To say I enjoyed this book is hard because of the pain that is portrayed throughout the book.  I was invested in the story which kept me reading. The author did a good job of painting the characters backgrounds.  I 
enjoyed the writing style, I will definitely check out this authors books.  Thank you to NetGalley,  Alfred A Knopf publishing company and the author for the opportunity to read this digital ARC.
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A heartbreaking look at the life of one 21st century family. A little too close to home for some readers but this will become an american classic
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