Unsheltered

Unsheltered

A Novel

Book - 2018
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How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. The magazine where Willa worked has folded; the college where her husband had tenure has closed. Their dubious shelter is also the only option for a disabled father-in-law and an exasperating, free-spirited daughter. When the family's one success story, an Ivy-educated son, is uprooted by tragedy he seems likely to join them, with dark complications of his own. In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town's powerful men. Unsheltered is the compulsively readable story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey, navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it. With history as their tantalizing canvas, these characters paint a startlingly relevant portrait of life in precarious times when the foundations of the past have failed to prepare us for the future.
Publisher: New York, New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, ©2018.
ISBN: 9780062870179
9780062684561
0062870173
Characteristics: 464 pages ;,24 cm.

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xiaojunbpl12
May 16, 2019

Two narration plots are interweaving ingeniously (beyond the characters names and chapter titles), though I was more entertained by sections of 19th century. Regardless of all too familiar scenes in modern time, I much prefer Thatcher to Willa.
Each sentence she writes, even for a mundane state on the surface, should be savored. The accumulated effect can be overwhelming. Many people along with events cross stitched, the whole volume run the risk of a ball of mass materials nearly bursting at multiple seams. As much as Tig's experience in Cuba reminds me time in Trinidad, I wish I could hold the spillover.

I'm in Kingsolver's league (aside from literate beauty, her chosen subjects show her deep responsibility, while her writings appeal to wide readership) totally, never mind lying prone, let her (overdone) social commentaries singing in the ears. A figurative shelter is a mere basic human need, once unsheltered (even by chance), try to be the hopeful who will strive to see a blue sky.

The book may not ring a pleasant tone in sheltered mind searching for a secure and conventional solution to our social mires.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Apr 23, 2019

Kingsolver's unique environmental voice comes through in this book that uses 1850s and Darwin's "Origin of the Species" to draw parallels to our modern reaction to the climate crisis.

IndyPL_CarriG Apr 15, 2019

Kingsolver writes about two different families in two different time periods, both trying to live in a house that is falling apart, and both dealing with political and family issues that are pulling them apart as well.
As always, Kingsolver uses fiction to try to work out her ideas and feelings about issues, and her ideas about the current political and economic struggles are on clear display - the metaphor about the house divided is very on the nose. I quite enjoyed reading about a time and place in history that had a similar feel of unreality to it - it was comforting to feel that our nation has been through similar times of diametric opposition and come out the other side.

n
NedSu
Apr 11, 2019

I am a Kingsolver admirer, and this is another fine work of literary fiction. Some may indeed be turned off by the political underpinnings of the novel- but there is so much more to this combined story. Small things, like the structure and tone change between the stories. In 1875 it takes on the tone of novels written in that era. The modern day story is a delight to read. The character of Willa, like a modern day Job, may be down, but she is not out. She is bemused and confused, but never defeated. She advises as a mother, ruminates about her plight, and finds herself learning, too. Kingsolver touches on many observations of today's world, from the economy to life in Cuba to the future generations. And, in the Mary Treat story, she shows how that tale parallels today.
As for her craftsmanship as a writer, she has no equal. She doesn't misuse structure; her profound revelations are wrapped in beauty of the sentence structure.

b
bethaney919
Mar 31, 2019

Took me awhile to get attached to the story but it grew on me as the characters became more fully formed. Kingsolver juxtaposes the fear/denial that evolution faced in its time with that of climate change today -- and the seduction of Vineland's naked emperor is all too recognizable. Made me think and provided one of the most satisfying endings to a book I've experienced in some time.

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writermala
Mar 19, 2019

Ever since "The Poisonwood Bible," I have been a Barbara Kingsolver fan. It took me a while to get into "Unsheltered" but once I did, it proved to be gripping. Kingsolver bases her story on a historical figure, Mary Treat, and builds around it. She was a naturalist who lived in Vineland, New Jersey and was way ahead of her time. Te other characters in the book is a family in the present. I loved how Kingsolver links the two families who lived over a century apart. The ending of each chapter provided the heading of the next chapter and the shambles that the house is in, links the two families memorably. My favorite characters were Mary Treat in the then, and and Tig in the now.

ArapahoeAnnaL Feb 26, 2019

This terrific work of literary fiction tells the story of two different families, one living in the 1870's, the other in current times. Geography, house troubles, and the lack of reliable shelter connect the two narratives. The meaning of shelter for these characters is twofold - in the concrete sense of housing, but also in the metaphorical shelter provided by a familiar and comforting world view. In the 19th century complacency is threatened by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution . In the 21st century the family finds the old ways of ensuring personal and societal security no longer work as they lose their savings and their professional positions as they confront global warming, a broken health care system, bigotry, class inequality, etc. This isn't a dry exploration of shelter however. The characters and their challenges are thoroughly engaging.

k
kwsmith
Feb 24, 2019

The characters in this book all live in decaying homes and don't earn enough money to repair their homes. I think this book reflects a grandmother's concern for the future of American children who may be the first generation in a long while to be less well off than their parents. Kingsolver was a Biologist before she was an author and this book spends a lot of time on the biology of plants. Kingsolver also explores the conflict between creationist thinking and evolutionist thinking. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book as much as her earlier work.

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griddling
Feb 14, 2019

Didactic, preachy and tedious. Not her best work.

r
rosalyndavidoff
Feb 11, 2019

You may make the book available to me at the Oak Square library branch.

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