Thank you to HarperCollins Publishing for providing me with a free e-copy of Unsheltered in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
If you couldn’t tell from the description, this book has a lot going on. It touches on a lot of relevant political and worldly issues all while flowing seamlessly through a well told story and in this case, two stories: one past and one present. This is really what Kingsolver is best at: writing a story that you can’t put down but infusing it with her views of the world and/or political issues that are important to her.
I have read and loved several of Kingsolver’s other books. The Poisonwood Bible is one of my lifetime favorites. However I did struggle with Unsheltered a bit. I was pulled into the story, as I expected to be. The beginning of the book starts with the story set in present time. When it switched over to the storyline from the past, I started to get lost. Maybe it was because both stories were so intense and richly built up, it was almost too much for me.
With that being said, I did enjoy the present time story much more and found it enjoyable, albeit depressing. But it is focused on depressing topics that face us in our world everyday: healthcare, bigotry, cost of living, job security etc. As a mid-30’s woman, married to a mid-30’s man, both of whom work, this book really got me thinking about security in the long term. It’s a scary world that is constantly changing and not always for the better and I think Kingsolver really emphasizes that unfortunate truth.
Unsheltered is a very good, very well done book that will make you think, make you feel, and will pull you in. It is totally worth reading, but be ready for an intense life lesson when you read it. I give this one 3/5 stars.