Non-Fiction - Autobiography
172 Pages
Reviewed on 03/27/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite

Carol Denise Mitchell never thought she would be 66 and homeless in California, but there she was. Recalling her life and the choices that she had made, or changes that she was forced to accept, she tells us the story of her downward spiral in her autobiography Unstable. She went from being the wife of a wealthy man with two children to staying in a horrible shelter after she decided to move to California from Arizona, a decision that left her with regrets. The place where she once grew up and raised a family was no longer the same. Gentrification had erased black business and culture and it became a place that Carol not only didn’t recognize but it left her uncomfortable and feeling out of place.

This is a really powerful memoir. I can’t imagine being 66 and dealing with all the harsh realities that Carol had to face. Trying to afford anything on a fixed income is rough and it’s heartbreaking to read about an elderly lady traumatized by the rat infestations which prompted her to move back to California. The author tells her story courageously, not leaving out any of the details. Most people wouldn’t be able to write about the lowest points in their life, but Carol has succeeded. As a chronically ill person myself, I can’t tell you how worried I am, along with many others who are struggling with the increasing cost of renting a place, especially if you can’t work. Sadly, Carol is just one of many folk who suffer in this way. It makes me feel so grateful for what I have. Carol Denise Mitchell has done a wonderful job with this book, and if she’s reading this I want her to know that she is brave and talented and that I am honored to have read Unstable.

Asher Syed

Unstable by Carol Denise Mitchell is a non-fiction memoir in which the author recounts a period of time when she found herself unable to cope with the realities of what her life had become. By all accounts from the outside, Mitchell looked like a woman with a promising future. She was a beauty pageant runner-up with a platform of wanting to eradicate homelessness, a published author, was successful in reinvigorating failing businesses and managing properties by profession, and lived the lifestyle that comes with the ability to spend $12k on a Lake Tahoe wedding suite. As the saying goes though, the higher you fly, the harder you fall, and Mitchell fell hard. Single and having everything she'd built taken from her, Mitchell drifts between properties run by slumlords and homelessness across state lines, a string of losses, two more failed marriages to one husband who is a drug addict, the other an alcoholic, and a third runaway groom. The culmination of all this hardship leads to her attempted suicide.

The first thing I need to point out about the memoir Unstable before we get to any other aspect is that author Carol Denise Mitchell is, without question, courageous. She has put the good, the bad, and the unthinkable into a book and released it into the world. For most, this would be terrifying but Mitchell does it boldly so that others can understand how a woman in the third chapter of life ends up on the streets. From a literary standpoint, the writing itself can come across as unpolished, and sometimes the prose is bungled. Still, the picture she paints comes from a profoundly honest and heartfelt place and this does carry over to the reader. The ending is ambiguous but leans toward the hopeful as the sixty-six-year-old author wraps the memoir up rapidly by saying she has found a pest-free place to live in Arizona and believes she is on a path to live out the rest of her days with a roof over her head. I can see this book being well received by readers who appreciate gritty, urban non-fiction, but more so, I imagine Unstable will act as a legacy memoir for generations of Mitchell's descendants. Recommended.

Pikasho Deka

Homelessness is a serious issue that plagues an ever-increasing number of people all over the world due to a growing rise in the cost of rental accommodation and the lack of support from local governments. Through Unstable, award-winning author Carol Denise Mitchell shares her tragic life story where she went from being an accomplished published author with a seemingly perfect life to becoming a pariah amongst friends and family, forcing her to the brink of taking her own life as she battled homelessness. After her first husband left her for another woman, Carol's life turned upside down when she had to start over anew. Two failed marriages later, the person with over thirty years of experience as a writer found herself forced to live on the streets of Glendale, Arizona, to Oakland, California, and back again.

Unstable is the harrowing true story of a woman's struggles to keep her sanity and stability amidst life's cruel hardships that left her with little room for comfort or happiness. In this book, Carol Denise Mitchell gives an unflinching account of her life on the streets, providing some sharp criticism of homeless shelters that not only fail to give solace to people in need but directly work toward profiting off their tragic situations. Carol has a way with words, and her writing perfectly conveys the horrible sense of helplessness and despair one might feel when forced to live without a roof over their head. As people become busier than ever, we mustn't forget our duty to care for our loved ones and elderly family members in their time of need. Highly recommended.