Happy Saturday! Today I have a review of Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver and publishing on Tuesday via Harper Books! I’ve only read one other Kingsolver book, The Poisonwood Bible, which I deeply enjoyed. If you visited my blog yesterday, you saw my First Line Fridays post featuring this book. I ended up finishing it tonight and figured I would go ahead and post my review because next week looks pretty busy! Please read on for my thoughts on Kingsolver’s newest effort!
Willa Knox is the epitome of a responsible wife and mother. She has always put her family first, and when she reaches middle age, she is shocked to discover her life is not exactly what she had planned for her efforts. Her historic house, Vineland, is a money pit, her once successful job has dissolved, her husband’s career ends abruptly, she is behind on her bills, her cranky and aging father-in-law lives with the family, as do her grown children, one a new father himself.
Willa begins to research her home in hopes that the local historical preservation society may be interested in funding the needed repairs. She uncovers that Vineland was once part of a Utopian community in the 1880s, and her interest centers on Thatcher Greenwood.
Thatcher is a science teacher holding a powerful secret he is told to keep by his employer; he knows about Charles Darwin’s new theory. He shares the secret anyway and winds up in battle with all the power players in town, which unleashes a big scandal.
Both families, Willa’s and Thatcher’s, share this same address a century apart and each of them faces a different set of challenges on the cusp of major societal change.
While I connected more with Willa’s story, I was interested in the historical aspects of Thatcher’s life. I also enjoyed when plants were featured, and I longed for more of those anecdotes.
The message in Unsheltered is a solid one. Even amid an ever-changing, unsecured, and undetermined future, protection (and, more precisely, shelter) can be found with friends and family, and above all, within oneself.
Overall, I found Unsheltered to be written in Kingsolver’s powerful and engaging signature style, and I look forward to her next effort.
Thank you to Harper Books for the ARC to read and review. All opinions are my own.
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.
Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart. The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.
In an act of desperation, Willa begins to investigate the history of her home, hoping that the local historical preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its direly needed repairs. Through her research into Vineland’s past and its creation as a Utopian community, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s, Thatcher Greenwood.
A science teacher with a lifelong passion for honest investigation, Thatcher finds himself under siege in his community for telling the truth: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting new theory recently published by Charles Darwin. Thatcher’s friendships with a brilliant woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor draw him into a vendetta with the town’s most powerful men. At home, his new wife and status-conscious mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his financial worries and the news that their elegant house is structurally unsound.
Brilliantly executed and compulsively listenable, Unsheltered is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum, as they navigate the challenges of surviving a world in the throes of major cultural shifts. In this mesmerizing story told in alternating chapters, Willa and Thatcher come to realize that though the future is uncertain, even unnerving, shelter can be found in the bonds of kindred—whether family or friends—and in the strength of the human spirit.
Have you read Unsheltered, or is it on your TBR? Do you have a favorite Kingsolver book? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR