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Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (with Kids) in America: My Story Hardcover – February 17, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Printing edition (February 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033669
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #885,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Kennedy recounts how she metamorphosed from a carefree college student into a homeless 24-year-old with three children by making some "bad judgment calls," the first of which was marrying her boyfriend to be eligible for financial aid. Three children come in unplanned succession, her back-to-nature husband moves the family to a rural cabin with no electricity, and his negligence nearly kills their daughter. These are the catalysts leading to Kennedy's double life: she looks normal enough at the pub where she waitresses, but she and her three children are sleeping in their Subaru, showering at a truck stop, and boiling Ramen noodles on a campground grill. Unwilling to confide her desperate situation to her parents, she finally saves enough for the first month's rent and security deposit on a small apartment, an impossible accomplishment for so many homeless people, as Kennedy elucidates in her compelling epilogue, which lays bare the economic causes of homelessness, and describes agencies to which she could have turned for help had she been less stubborn and better informed. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Selfishness is not what I witnessed.
This book also change the way I view the world and how much more grateful I am of having the things around me that I have been taking for granted.
Susan Wong
Michelle Kennedy writes well and has an interesting story to tell.
Tanya T. Warrington

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Barb Mechalke VINE VOICE on March 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was really curious about how this mother of three with a middle class up-bringing ended up homeless and living out of her car. But she pretty much spells it out for us...it's one bad decision after another and a TON of foolish pride.

While I'm pretty sure I couldn't have done what she did and have maintained my sanity I'm not so sure that what she did was what a good mother would do. I understand that she felt she had to but given that that was her thought process I think maybe there is something not quite right with her thought processing. I think she was really really lucky the way that things turned out for her in the end. And lucky for her that no one reported her to child protective services.

I didn't understand why she didn't go to her parents for help, she never gave any indication that they were anything but caring parents. I also thought it was surprising that she couldn't have found some resources to help her when she was homeless.

Bookwise...I thought it was a quick and easy read and if you want to know how she ended up living out of her car it's all in there.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bookaholic on April 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If I could give this book 0 stars, I would! I bought this book, read it in a night and have never been so upset in my life. This is basically the story of a selfish, thoughtless woman who stumbles through life pulling her three children with her. Why would you get married just to get a better financial aid package ? Why couldn't she take leave of absence, work, & save up money for school ? Marriage is not supposed to be used as a convenience to more easily fund your education. You do what I did - work in the summer, work during the school year and take education loans. Then, why would you continue to get pregnant knowing that your husband doesn't seem to really be involved with you or the children ? And finally, why on the earth would you move with your three children to a log cabin in the woods of Maine with just a wood fire for heat & no running water ? Had I been one of her neighbors, I would have called Child Protective Services to have the children taken away from her - children should have adequate food, clothing, shelter and supervision which she was unable to give them. Additionally, why didn't she pursue her husband for child support so that she could have enough money to pay for the kids ??

DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK! If you want to read about the truly homeless and/or working class, buy Nickel & Dimed, The Working Poor, Getting By On The Minimum, and many other good books.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Barbara M. on February 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished Michelle Kennedy's excellent memoir "Without a Net" and am planning on giving it to friends to read, especially the female ones. Bad decisions happen to everyone and Ms. Kennedy honestly writes about her bad decisions and how they led her and her 3 children to living out of their car. The United States, being a country that is wealthy, has just as many people who are hungry and "living without a net" and Ms. Kennedy writes a powerful story. For those of us with roofs over our heads and food on our tables, we should be extremely thankful.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful By GadgetChick on July 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Like many other reviewers, I found the author's passitivity and willingness to blame "the system" for a situation she squarely chose to put herself into maddening. Ms. Kennedy doesn't finish college (mistake #1). She has three kids in quick succession, stays home with them, and never makes an effort to get any kind of skill training for herself, or get a job, even though she knows her marriage is rocky - she just keeps depending on her husband for support, knowing the bottom could drop out at any time (Mistake #2). She passively sits by while her husband makes some incredibly stupid decisions that she knows threaten the economic survival of her family (Mistake #3). She then sits around blaming her husband for his inability to take care of the family rather than getting off her duff and doing something herself that will bring in income (Mistake #4).

Then she ends up homeless and makes her kids live in the family car, because she's too proud to ask her family, or social service agencies, for help. She gets a series of menial jobs and makes her kids stay in dangerous and threatening situations so that she can make an attempt at earning a living. The worst part? This isn't a "down-and-out mom makes good by pulling herself up by her bootstraps" story. Ms. Kennedy's way out of homelessness and poverty isn't hard work - it's latching on to yet another man who will support her, and having another baby.

As a feminist this book made me sick. Women ending up without resources to support themselves is absolutely the reason why the feminist revolution occurred - to give women options so they can earn a living and not end up living out of a car with their three kids.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Croft on May 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
I waited 2 years for this book to come out! I read an excerpt from the book that was published in a magazine. Having kids myself and an unsteady income I could really see how someone like myself could become homeless. What I was dying to know was how she got out of it. Therefore, I was sorely disappointed when I got the book and learned that her way out was becoming pregnant and letting someone who had a crush on her take care of her.

However, I couldn't put the book down. I read it in one day, staying up well into the night to finish it. Any book that has that effect is worth a read!
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