Unsheltered

Unsheltered 2

by Barbara Kingsolver

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 24/10/2018

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The international bestselling author of The Lacuna, Flight Behaviour 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 resilience and compassion in times of great upheaval.

2016 Vineland

Meet Willa Knox, a woman who stands braced against an upended world that seems to hold no mercy for her shattered life and family - or the crumbling house that contains her.

1871 Vineland

Thatcher Greenwood, the new science teacher, is a fervent advocate of the work of Charles Darwin, and he is keen to communicate his ideas to his students. But those in power in Thatcher's small town have no desire for a new world order. Thatcher and his teachings are not welcome.

Both Willa and Thatcher resist the prevailing logic. Both are asked to pay a high price for their courage. But both also find inspiration - and an unlikely kindred spirit - in Mary Treat, a scientist, adventurer and anachronism.

A testament to both the resilience and persistent myopia of the human condition, Unsheltered explores the foundations we build in life, spanning time and place to give us all a clearer look at those around us, and perhaps ourselves. It is a novel that speaks truly to our times.

‘As always, Kingsolver gives readers plenty to think about. Her warm humanism coupled with an unabashed point of view make her a fine 21st-century exponent of the honourable tradition of politically engaged fiction.’ - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

'A truly marvellous book ... Kingsolver has always had a singular ability to weave history, science and storytelling into a seamless and compelling whole ... What is wonderful about Kingsolver's work is her ability to convey optimism in even the most difficult situations - without ever sugar-coating anything ... Kingsolver is a writer to treasure, to read and reread: she sees the world as it is, but believes, always, in the possibility of change.' - Erica Wagner, Harpers Bazaar

ISBN:
9780571347018
Category:
Fiction
Format:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
24-10-2018
Pages:
480
Dimensions (mm):
234x153mm
Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver is one of the most important voices of our time. Barbara Kingsolver’s previous fourteen works of fiction and non-fiction have been translated into dozens of languages and earned a devoted readership.

She won the Orange Prize in 2010 for The Lacuna and her novel Flight Behaviour was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

In 2000 she was awarded the National Humanities Medal, her country's highest honour for service through the arts. Before she made her living as a writer, Kingsolver earned degrees in biology and worked as a scientist. She now lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

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  • Reviewed by Olivia at Angus & Robertson

    by on

    Two families, lifetimes apart, find common ground in Unsheltered, a powerful and contemplative new novel from Barbara Kingsolver that I cannot recommend highly enough. In 1871, a new science teacher comes to Vineland determined to teach his pupils the work of Charles Darwin, only to meet fierce resistance from the town’s most powerful leaders. Nearly 150 years later, in 2016, a woman must balance the weight of her everyday life with the grief of her recently widowed son as she struggles to keep their life from crumbling down amongst them (along with the house itself).

    Kingsolver seamlessly weaves their stories together in a novel that reaches into the past and brings historic malaise to the present, mixing it with our own modern anxieties to show us how the problems we think are unique to us are in fact timeless. In doing so, Kingsolver paints a bleak portrait of an America beset by fear and mistrust, but also one which is redeemable by the power of community and genuine connection. This is another masterful novel from a much beloved author that I think is a must read.

  • an interesting, thought-provoking and eminently en

    by on

    Unsheltered is the ninth novel by best-selling, prize-winning American novelist, essayist, and poet, Barbara Kingsolver. Now in her fifties, Willa Knox never expected to be living in a run-down house in Vineland, New Jersey, still the hub of a family that includes her two adult children, her new grandson, her debilitated, demanding father-in-law and an ageing dog.

    Virtually unemployed, Willa is writing some freelance articles; her university professor husband Iano has a low-paid teaching job; her recently-widowed son Deke is juggling single fatherhood with setting up a personal financial advice company; her daughter Tig has abandoned college for protest action; her father-in-law Nick needs urgent medical care; and due to a lack of foundations, the house she inherited is literally starting to fall apart. Any sort of windfall, though not expected, would be helpful.

    Some hundred and forty years earlier, Thatcher Greenwood has moved from Boston to teach science at Vineland High School. Newly married to Rose, he has taken on the responsibility of both his late father-in-law’s family and house. His bright young sister-in-law, Polly is a bonus, whereas Rose’s mother, Aurelia falls into quite a different category. The house is not as sound as Aurelia believes, and his teaching position is a source of great frustration, as the school’s principal undermines his every attempt to infuse his students with current scientific knowledge.

    The timelines alternate between chapters with the events of the 1870s told from Thatcher’s perspective, while Willa narrates the story set in 2015/6. Kingsolver uses a clever device to bridge the chapter: the final words of one chapter form the heading of the next. Between the narratives, parallels and echoes abound, and not just the residency at 744 East Plum Street. And with them, Kingsolver deftly demonstrates that many of the challenges we think we’re facing for the first time are by no means unique or new phenomena.

    Kingsolver is highly skilled at creating believable characters: she writes about ordinary people facing everyday challenges, and yet, the reader can’t help but be enthralled. These are people who face hardships yet still worry about the greater good, about their country and the world. Their dialogue is credible, their relationships, realistic, and while there is naturally some friction between certain characters, their interactions (between couples, friends, siblings, parents/children, in-laws) are often entertaining.

    Kingsolver’s depiction of these pre-Trump-era characters who have made good decisions, doing the right thing and working hard all their lives, and still ending up effectively on the poverty line, is absolutely spot-on. Her analysis of the mindset of those who support Trump (who remains unnamed herein) is astute and insightful. “…we’re overdrawn at the bank, at the level of our species, but we don’t want to hear it. So if it’s not this exact prophet of self-indulgence we’re looking to for reassurance, it will be some other liar who’s good at distracting us from the truth. Because of the times we’re in.”

    Kingsolver gives Tig the voice of caution, making her intelligent, perceptive and articulate. If some readers feel this has a preachy tone to it, well, perhaps that’s because nothing else has worked and the situation is truly becoming dire. But it’s not all doom and gloom: there are also plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the conversations; and if those nations that consider themselves highly developed could take a leaf out of the book of a country that has had no choice but to curb their consumerism/materialism, then Cuba apparently has much to teach us all.

    As always, Kingsolver’s descriptive prose is exquisite, and her love of nature is apparent throughout, as is her concern for the state of the nation and of the world. Again, she gives the reader an interesting, thought-provoking and eminently enjoyable read.