Caitlin Shetterly is not coy. In her memoir Made for You and Me, partially adapted from her pieces for National Public Radio, we endure her bedridden pregnancy and see her screaming at her loyal husband, Dan. Not surprisingly, Shetterly offers no tidy ending to the couple’s rage against the current recession. But her honesty compels you to keep reading, even as your heart breaks.

Dan and Cait believed that moving from Maine to California would have nothing but benefits. Dan was ready to escape his full-time photographer job, and Shetterly—an actor who founded her own theater company—had her own creative aspirations. They both loved Los Angeles, and their friends were thriving there. In March 2008, Dan and Cait packed up their car and ventured west to seize the opportunities that surely awaited them.

But they couldn’t escape reality—dumpy apartments covered with mold, Shetterly’s unexpected (but cherished) pregnancy—and the recession finally wrapped its tentacles around their livelihoods. Almost overnight, Dan and Cait’s security unraveled. Jobs were nonexistent. Funds ran dry. Eventually, the only option was to return to Maine and move in with Shetterly’s mother. “I don’t even know what I’d smash,” an angry Dan says shortly before they depart. “It’s all getting smashed for me.”

Shetterly’s honesty is an enormous asset, and it’s not her only one. She’s a personable and humorous narrator who turns her American tragedy into an examination on how love carries us to the next day. Her dreams flattened, her life in tatters, at one point Shetterly feels crushed. Then she looks at her infant son. “I knew I needed to choose life and hold on tight,” Shetterly writes. For anyone still buried underneath the rubble of the economic collapse, Made for You and Me is more than a relatable read; it’s a straightforward and unsweetened source of inspiration from someone who was knocked out by the American Dream but still keeps fighting.

 

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