Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.
In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.
He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.
The Roosevelt series by Heidi Cullinan is unusual and quite wonderful to begin with. It’s about young men whose disabilities don’t allow them to live and mostly function in the “mean’, the normal world. It’s almost guaranteed to make some people uncomfortable enough to not want to pick the books up and read them. If so, they would be missing out on an astonishing jewel of a series and characters, no people so memorable and heroic I’ve already read this story twice.
The Roosevelt is a special needs living facility, home to Emmet Washington, a highly functioning autistic young man and his boyfriend Jeremey, who has severe anxiety and depression disorders, along with other disabled young adults. The story alternates between Emmet’s and Jeremey’s pov, a powerful framework. Cullinan’s strong and moving narrative allows you to delve into each young man’s mind and see how they live with their disabilities, how it affects speech, thinking and even emotions and connectivity to each other. The commonplace adjustments they make, not only between themselves, but for others within The Roosevelt and visiting friends (this includes making signs that say “silent communication going on”), well, time and again, I found my own preconceptions needing swift readjustments as I was swept more deeply into Emmet and Jeremey’s story and relationship.
There is so much to this story that the author fits in, easily I must say, that enriches both the characters lives and the story, while letting the narrative progress and flow forward effortlessly. I found myself learning about service dogs and sensory sacks, about ball pits and great companies but mostly I learned about love, the power of love from Emmet and Jeremey. Oh, and The Roosevelt Blues Brothers! I really wish somehow Heidi Cullinan had come up with a pic for that!
Such an extraordinary love story. Honestly, I think this review is a failing me because I really don’t have the words I’m searching for to describe how this book made me feel. The laughter, the tears I shed, the hope it left me with, all the reassessing I’m doing about my preconceived thoughts about disabilities and group homes. This book shook me up in a good way, in the way books should.
The story starts off with Emmet telling the reader that he accomplished his goals and this is the story of how he did it. So right away, the tone is one of incredible hope. That hope carries you through the book, even when things look realistically painful and down, right through to that heartwarming ending. For me, this story is well, perfect in its own way, right up to the title, Shelter the Sea, something that Emmet wants to do. How that works out? Well, this is a book you should read to find out. Its one of my Best of 2017.
Cover art is gorgeous and so pertinent to the story. I love it.
Kindle Edition, 190 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Heidi Cullinan
Original TitleShelter the Sea
Series The Roosevelt #2
setting Iowa (United States)