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Gail Pritchard

Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

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With Unsheltered (2018, Harper), Barbara Kingsolver once again proves herself as a master literary craftsperson, using her hard-won wisdom and heartfelt uncertainty as to our future.

Unsheltered is set in Vineland, New Jersey and tells parallel stories. In the (very) current one, the protagonist is Willa an unemployed writer/author who is mother to two grown children, plus a new grandson, her husband and her dying father-in-law who all end  up under the same disintegrating roof. This is a challenging and heart-wrenching time for Willa who thought that she and her husband, as two professionals, would not be worrying about money at this stage of their lives.

The other strand of the story is set in the same town approximately 150 years earlier.

The protagonist in this part of the story is Thatcher, a newlywed school teacher who also lives in a poorly-constructed dilapidated house. His struggle is to keep his job as teacher at the high school without compromising his beliefs. The same question is starting to impinge on his marriage.

Kingsolver’s characters are delightful and the relationships between Willa’s children

are heartbreaking. There is the radical and resourceful daughter Tig who is tiny and fierce; the son (Willa’s favourite) who believes in the American Dream; the redneck (Trumper) father-in-law who would rather die than use Obamacare; and her husband whom she adores but is annoyed by his complacency.

In Thatcher’s world, it is a time of struggle between the evolutionists and the creationists. His earning ability is a disappointment to his wife Rose and her mother whose house he has become responsible for. The bright light in his household is his sister-in-law Polly, who is secretly wanting to wear trousers, which is unheard of in the streets of Vineland in that era.

This is a powerful and important book. Thatcher and Willa’s alternating stories maintain there distinctive tones yet echo one another in curious, provocative ways.

The main “take home” message seems very timely: Learning to want both less and more. Learning to let our hearts open and be Unsheltered.

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I haven't read this book, but yeah I saw it on last week on Back to school coupon, before reading your post I didn't have any idea about this book, but now this seems quite interesting and worth reading, well after buying and reading will share my opinion about this book, and plz keep sharing more interesting books.
 

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