Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (with Kids) in America: My Story

Overview

At twenty-four, Michelle Kennedy was an ex-college student, an ex-U.S. Senate intern, an ex-wife, and an ex-member of the middle class. Faced with an untenable home situation, Michelle and her three small children retreated to the only refuge they had left—the backseat of a Subaru station wagon. Without a Net is one woman's true story of scraping the bottom of the American Dream—sleeping in parking lots, showering at campgrounds, and cooking ramen noodles over a public grill for dinner, all while taking care of ...
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Overview

At twenty-four, Michelle Kennedy was an ex-college student, an ex-U.S. Senate intern, an ex-wife, and an ex-member of the middle class. Faced with an untenable home situation, Michelle and her three small children retreated to the only refuge they had left—the backseat of a Subaru station wagon. Without a Net is one woman's true story of scraping the bottom of the American Dream—sleeping in parking lots, showering at campgrounds, and cooking ramen noodles over a public grill for dinner, all while taking care of three kids and working a full-time job. With humor and honesty, Michelle Kennedy describes how a few bad choices can push even a smart, educated woman and loving mother below the poverty line. And how, using her wits, a little luck, and a lot of courage and determination, she survived disaster to create a new home for her family.

Author Biography: Michelle Kennedy's Salon.com piece about this experience touched a nerve: E- mails and letters poured in from readers who wanted the whole story. Kennedy was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her work in Brain, Child magazine. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor.

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Editorial Reviews

Sarah Wildman
Kennedy is at her sharpest explaining the daily chore of keeping her brood fed on ramen noodles boiled on public grills, and dressed in Gap clothing bought at tag sales for 10 or 25 cents a shirt. She walks with the children through the town of Stone Harbor, Me., determined to look like a tourist, not like a woman with nowhere to go.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
You'd think it'd take a while to go from "given-every-opportunity, spoiled-in-every-way... middle-class housewife... to homeless single mother," but Kennedy did it in less than a year. Just some "bad judgment calls and wrong decisions," and a smart young former Senate page and promising college student found herself, at 25, living in a station wagon with her three young children, making pots of ramen noodles at campgrounds and showering at truck stops. Oddly enough, once readers learn the details, the story of Kennedy's downfall goes from being unlikely to horribly plausible. Her parents couldn't cover her tuition, but she couldn't get financial aid unless she was independent or married. So she married her boyfriend, got pregnant, dropped out and had two more children. Meanwhile, on a back-to-the-land kick, her husband moved the family to rural Maine. His neglect almost killed one child, so Kennedy left him and took the kids to a small coastal Maine town. Finding waitressing work was simple; finding affordable child care or an apartment that a landlord would rent to someone in her situation was impossible. So Kennedy improvised-lots. While the details are fascinating, they'd also be quite depressing if it weren't for the subplot of Kennedy falling in love with a co-worker. Indeed, her romance with this hunk absolutely hijacks the homelessness story-but readers will be too engrossed to care. Agent, Patty Moosbrugger. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young mother's engrossing memoir of life below the poverty line, where home for her and three small children was a 1979 Subaru station wagon. Kennedy, who first recounted her story on Salon.com, had been a student at American University and a suburban housewife outside Washington, DC, before she dropped out of the middle class. When her husband quit his white-collar job and moved to a rough cabin in the Maine woods, she followed him and gamely supported their family by working as a bartender. But after their daughter was attacked by a dog while her husband was babysitting, she packed the Subaru with three children under the age of six (one still in diapers) and fled. She drove south to the Maine coast, stopping in Stone Harbor, where she found work as a waitress. Unwilling to tell her parents of her plight, unable to get food stamps or subsidized housing, and unaware of the help she might have received from churches or other charitable organizations, Kennedy, then 24, managed on her own. She made the car their home, putting the youngsters to sleep in the back and taking the front seat for herself. Sometimes they spent the night at the beach and cleaned up at a truck stop; sometimes they slept at a campground, where she made soup on outdoor grills. Kennedy strove to keep the children clean, well fed, and happy, and the details of how she succeeded are fascinating. Fortunately, by late summer she managed to save enough of her tips to put down a deposit on an apartment and move her family into it. The friends she made, the babysitting help her coworkers gave her, an affair and a new job also enter into her story, but the heart of this account is the author's love for her children and herdetermination to keep her family safe, sound, and together. Frightening yet heartening-perfect movie material. Agent: Patty Moosbrugger/Stuart Krichevsky Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670033669
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/2005
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Michelle Kennedy was nominated for a 2004 Pushcart Prize. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, on Salon.com, and in the Christian Science Monitor.
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