Title: Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt: Book Two)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Length: 190 Pages
At a Glance: Shelter the Sea truly is an incredible story, packed with feels, and one of the most fantastic and tear-filled endings I’ve read for a while.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.
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.
Review: Grab your tissues, folks. There will be crying when you read Shelter the Sea. Happy tears…sad tears…alllllll the tears. But, read it you must. If you loved Carry the Ocean, the first book in The Roosevelt series, you will undoubtedly love having more Emmet and Jeremey in your life. If you haven’t read Carry the Ocean yet, you definitely need to do that first. Not only because it’s an amazing book, but because there is a lot of history and background you really should have before diving into this second book.
In Shelter the Sea, Emmet and Jeremey have been living at The Roosevelt for a couple of years, and things between them are great. I love how solid and wonderful they are together; throughout the story you really do feel like their love can withstand anything. Which is good…because there are a lot of stressful, anxiety-making things going on in this book. Jeremey’s depression has gotten much worse, for one thing. He initially manages to keep it from Emmet, but Jeremey knows it’s getting the better of him again. Cullinan has such a way with making depression and anxiety, and autism, so visual for the reader, creating such a visceral response to what these guys are experiencing and dealing with. This, from Jeremey’s POV, for example:
Depression clawed at me, a yawing spiral beneath my feet, and it left me so weary, but anxiety chewed at my insides, thrilled to have me captive at last so it could feast.
Things are very rough for Jeremey in the beginning of the story. He does have David to confide in, which is nice, but he really needs the support of his partner. His Emmet. Once Emmet discovers Jeremey’s depression is bad again, he won’t stop until he finds a way to help him. In fact, Emmet is everyone’s champion in this one. He’s a superhero with a Blues Brothers suit as his cape, and he is perfect. From his relentless efforts to help his boyfriend, and Darren, and The Roosevelt, right on down to his desire to marry Jeremey, and his quest to figure out the perfect way to propose, Emmet Washington is honestly just sheer perfection.
Emmet can’t do everything alone, though. Luckily, he has some excellent teammates and helpers. His boss, Kaya, is amazing. David’s dad, and owner of The Roosevelt, Bob, is right there the whole way. Dr. North is on board, of course. And, finally, two more heroes, Emmet’s parents. I loved them hard in Carry the Ocean, and, if anything, that love and respect has grown. One thing that struck me, both while rereading Carry the Ocean, and reading this book—in fact, while reading so many of her books—was how much I love that Cullinan writes awesome parents. So many LGBTQ books lean towards only portraying parents who are awful—and some absolutely are awful, way too many are. Or, they’re “trying”…trying to accept their kids, who they should just love. But, some parents ARE awesome, and I’m glad she gives them a voice, too. Here we get a mix…Jeremey’s parents fall into the barely trying category, while Emmet’s parents are the kind of loving, supportive, wondrous parents that every child deserves.
I’m not going to say much more, because I really don’t want to give anything away. We know from the blurb that The Roosevelt is in trouble. And, not only that, but laws regarding care of mental health patients are changing in a troubling way. The Roosevelt Blues Brothers, as they come to be known in this book, as well as all the citizens of Iowa, have a big fight on their hands. It is an educational, emotional ride. Also, Jeremey, Emmet, David, and Darren all go on significant personal journeys that are emotional and moving. There are so many moments that will have you cheering, gasping, awwww’ing, sighing, and yes, crying, that it may not have the same impact if you knew about them beforehand. EVEN THOUGH THERE IS ONE THING—WAIT…TWO THINGS—THAT I AM ESPECIALLY DYING TO TELL YOU.
Shelter the Sea is beautiful on many levels. We get to see the magic of a grassroots effort from the ground up. And, we get to fall in love with Emmet and Jeremey all over again, as well as connect with the amazing supporting cast, including a new character named Mai, who will steal your heart. I loved that it was educational without feeling bogged down by too much information or getting preachy. It truly is an incredible story, packed with feels, and one of the most fantastic and tear-filled endings I’ve read for a while. Can’t say enough good things…Don’t miss this one, guys.
You can buy Shelter the Sea here: