Cover art for Unsheltered
Faber & Faber, October 2018
Softcover, 480 pages
23.4cm × 15.3cm × 3.3cm


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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.

Recommended by Barb Sampson

Barb takes care of the web orders here at Boffins, and is your contact for book club enquiries. She spends all her spare time curled up on the couch reading and for the last several years has reviewed books on the Afternoon Program on ABC radio Perth.

Set in small town New Jersey, Unsheltered alternates between two stories, one from the 19th century, and the other very much of the 21st. In each storyline the central character finds themselves living in a house that threatens to collapse any minute, and in a society whose  ignorance threatens them in other ways. Kingsolver is such a good storyteller, drawing you into the lives of her characters with skill. I particularly loved the women in this novel, each of whom struggle against the restrictions placed upon them, using a combination of humour, intelligence and downright stubbornness. She clearly had a lot of fun with the 2016 part of the narrative, incorporating some of the craziness of the presidential election into the story to great effect. Often I can’t stop myself from gobbling novels, but with Unsheltered I forced myself to slow down, to make it last - because I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want it to finish. Highly recommended.

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