Unsheltered

Unsheltered

A Novel

eBook - 2018
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A New York Times Bestseller

Named one of the Best Books of the Year (2018) by NPR, O, The Oprah Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek

The New York Times bestselling author of Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, and The Poisonwood Bible and recipient of numerous literary awards—including the National Humanities Medal, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Orange Prize—returns with a timely novel that interweaves past and present to explore the human capacity for resiliency and compassion in times of great upheaval.

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.


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m
mnack_0
Nov 27, 2019

Meh. I picked this book up mainly because I had never read any Kingsolver. It seemed like an interesting concept - even though we learn that the two families did NOT live in the same house - just on the same tract of land. (My book group says it's not her best.) The not-so-veiled references to Trump was a little heavy-handed. (Though I do find the name "Bullhorn" hysterical.) She makes it pretty 'obvi' what her political leanings are and her feelings about what's happening in Cuba as voiced through Tig. The bit about Mary Treat being an actual historical figure is cool. On the whole, I found it preachy and boring. Sorry, Barbara. I'm sure you can do better.

m
maslick1
Nov 18, 2019

I read and listened to this book. The reader is Barbara Kingsolver and she did a good job. This book started out slowly for me, as I was loathe to find out what trouble the characters were in. But her wonderful phraseology and description of things pulled me in. Her characters were complex and interesting. There are alot of layers in this book, and my book club did not have time to discuss as much as I would have liked. The overriding topics were representative of the mess we find ourselves in today. Some people felt she preached or over-stated her case; I felt it was "spot on".

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uncommonreader
Oct 13, 2019

A novel set in the same house, 150 years apart, draws parallels between Trump's America and the community established by a despotic, creationist leader of a New Jersey town in the late 19th century. There is a non-subtle use of characters to represent differing perspectives without attacking the underlying reasons for the current problems of climate change and corporate greed. Nevertheless, this book is so much more interesting than the bulk of meaningless popular fiction on the shelves today.

IndyPL_TomP Aug 02, 2019

At one point in the book, Kingsolver has a character say “It just seems like…I don’t know. There’s less money in the world than there used to be. I don’t know how else to put it. Like something’s broken.” Two critics, one writing in the Atlantic and another in The New York Times, built negative criticism around that utterance, which really surprised me. Read Kingsolver's most recent novel (2018) and see what you think.

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1_Great_Book
Jun 13, 2019

Have just discovered Kingsolver and absolutely loved the symmetry, the imagery, the social statements, the fluidity of style, the juxtaposed conflict of characters and the thought-provoking single word title. All of these elements are proof of a master writer, able to evoke and discuss scientific fact through fiction. The challenge of a realistic younger generation accepting the adjustment and adaptation to a changed world in the face of an older generation's decline because of ideological beliefs in an ever-distant old world order is not a new theme, but what hits home is the fact that this is so well described in the present context, not another study of past generations.

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SophieAbitbol
Jun 03, 2019

I have loved Barabara Kingsolver's books since the Bean Trees but I found myself having a hard time getting into and sticking with this one. The stories are beautifully told, each in its own prose reflecting the time period of the characters, but it took a long time for the connection to be established between the two. I got the social commentary Kingsolver is making but perhaps it is too close to the news for me to get that feeling of getting lost in fiction.

k
KamaliAbelson
May 30, 2019

Sorry...was utterly bored. Found myself skipping entire paragraphs, sections, chapters just to find the plotline. Guess she is not my style.

b
betsymarzoni
May 24, 2019

Lots of botany in here.

x
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.

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sxl
Jan 10, 2020

Everything changes &nothing changes; we must struggle incredibly to see beyond the culture &historical epoch of which we are apart.

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