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Unsheltered


A timely novel that explores the human capacity for resiliency and compassion.
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Discuss Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver:
As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?"

Created: 10/16/18

Replies: 5

Posted Oct. 16, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?"

As they shift from parent-child to a more adult relationship, what does Willa learn from her daughter? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?" How does this relate to the lost-and-found quote about happiness from Willa Cather's My Àntonia?


Posted Oct. 29, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
JLPen77

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 259

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RE: As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might

Willa learns to see people like her Latino neighbors (whom she looked down on in a way, not with active racism but with a sense of superiority) in a new light, as good people she could learn from. Tig challenges Willa's thwarted liberal expectations of the "good life" and her resentment that she and her husband, despite being good citizens and smart professionals, can barely make ends meet. They've been cheated by economic change. All that is true, Tig points out, but the rules have changed for everyone, even for folks who've never shared her relative privilege and expectations. And Tig pushes her to realize that "things," even nice houses, are ultimately not what matters, in the face of the threat to survival on the planet. Tig's "secret of happiness" is that people matter most, that attachment to objects is a waste of our time. Instead, building a community, sharing and recycling resources, being creative and taking gratitude and enjoyment from something as simple as a good meal, is ultimately as necessary as it is fulfilling.

Later, while clearing out her accumulations of "stuff," Willa finds a quote on happiness that her mother had copied from Willa Cather, to be read at her funeral, but Willa had mislaid and forgotten about it. The quote talks of happiness as being like pumpkins or people soaking up sunshine, a sense of being "dissolved into something complete and great." The quote makes a powerful emotional impact on Willa; in a way, it expresses the new understanding she's developed from her conversations with Tig: that her real happiness is not dependent upon a fancy house, but on the way her relationships and her expanding family, including Tig's partner, the Hispanic neighbor Jorge, are growing into something "complete and great," along with a new sense of needing to become part of a broader community for the sake of future generations. I think that's also Kingsolver's message for us: to value our common humanity, across ethnic differences, and to value our relationship to the earth itself, and work together to make the changes necessary for survival.


Posted Oct. 31, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Deb

Join Date: 09/17/18

Posts: 5

RE: As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?"

Willa also learns about earth-centric values, such as "reduce, re-use, and recycle" as Tig's concerns for the environment steer her decisions about where to live and what to do with her life. So yes, Tig wants the future to include a broader community; she also wants the planet to have a future and shows Willa how even small steps, if everyone takes them, can make a difference. Tig might or might not have her own children, but in raising her nephew as her own (zero population growth) she is freeing Willa to be a grandmother and not a mother and showing Willa a way forward when she seems overwhelmed by everything she is dealing with.


Posted Nov. 01, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
veronicaj

Join Date: 05/25/17

Posts: 13

RE: As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?"

Willa learns that her daughter is a fully grown woman who has found the life that is right for her. Wills learns to respect Tig's life choices. Tig has expanded Willa's boundaries.


Posted Nov. 05, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
bill and jackie

Join Date: 02/15/17

Posts: 7

RE: As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?"

Willa learns that Tig's survival instinct is really much more mature than her own. Tig finds happiness is creating her own "shelter', creating a meal out of very little, caring for others and helping them reach their dreams and not worrying about herself. Having "low expectations" means little disappointment and having the ability to find joy or satisfaction, anyway, in what you already have or can realistically expect. Randy Pausch a beloved Carnegie Mellon professor in his last lecture said, "Even optimists have a Plan B!"

The last three paragraphs of Chapter 17 repeat the ideas of Mary Treat. Tig tries to explain to Willa that when bad things happen and you end up in "rubble", "it's okay because without all that crap overhead, you're standing in the daylight." And when Willa demurs that "without a roof over your head it kind of feels like you might die", Tig says, 'Yeah but you might not,.....What you have to do is look for blue sky."


Posted Nov. 27, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rco

Join Date: 11/04/18

Posts: 10

RE: As their relationship shifts, what does Willa learn from Tig? How might "the secret of happiness" be "low expectations?"

Willa and Tigs relationship matured and they gained a new respect for each other. Tig was able to show Willa the necessity of making use of what you had available and not constantly striving for more. She also taught Willa patience in the way she dealt with the baby and her grandfather. Happiness is not in what we gain but in what we do with what we have.


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