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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:
Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Created: 10/16/18

Replies: 29

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1913

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Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)


Posted Oct. 28, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulak

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 92

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RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I thoroughly enjoyed Unsheltered and was dismayed at some of the early reviews and thought, oh no, maybe Kingsolver has missed a step. Now that I have finished, I am stunned at some of the reviews that don't care for Kingsolver's political message. Well my feeling is don't read Kingsolver then because that would be like watching Bill Maher and disliking the amount of time spent on political commentary. But not only will you miss the dreaded "political message," you will miss amazing characters, wonderful dialogue, terrific structure and an overall tremendous reading experience.

By using parallel stories, one present day and the other in the 1880's, Kingsolver underscores the seismic social and environmental shifts we are undergoing. I was moved and inspired by this book and its messages captured so well in this bit of dialogue:

"I suppose it is in our nature," she said finally. "When men fear the loss of what they know, they will follow any tyrant who promises to restore the old order."

"If that is our nature, then nature is madness. These are more dangerous times than we have ever known."


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

Join Date: 02/09/17

Posts: 14

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I have long been a Kingsolver fan, but this novel did not really appeal to me. I share most of her views on the topics presented, but, like other reviewers, I found it preachy. The whole book felt like a prelude to me-- I wondered when the story was going to get going, and then the book ended.


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

Join Date: 11/25/12

Posts: 34

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Kingsolver's ability to present issues on a personal basis is fascinating. Although I'm not fond of
parallel stories, this gave the reader an avenue to see similar situations from different viewpoints.
As usual, her characters are wonderfully believable.


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

Join Date: 10/09/18

Posts: 21

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I found Mrs. Treat to be a very interesting woman that heretofore was unknown to me. That made things definitely more intriguing. The Lacuna is my favorite book but Kingsolver is a dependably good writer and you can’t go wrong with her stories. Though the back and forth of the parallel stories got tiring, the stories in each time period were compelling.


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

Join Date: 03/25/13

Posts: 28

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I am very sorry to say that I did not love this book. The first 100 pages were interesting but beyond that the story became quite slow and I wanted to give up many times. I normally love Ms. Kingsolver but found this book to be too preachy for my personal tastes - and I usually don't mind that.


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

Join Date: 02/05/16

Posts: 283

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RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I loved this book as a "great read," engrossing me with realistic, quirky characters, honest, thoughtful and caring people who struggled with what so many of us are struggling with: keeping a home together, in times of growing economic injustice, social upheaval and environmental threat -- leading to a feeling of being anxious, insecure, "unsheltered."

What is especially impressive is how Kingsolver found historical parallels in the history of Vineland, NJ and the real character of Mary Treat -- and how she wove the past and the present together, around the "deep" symbol of the decaying house, but also through the links between chapters, ending each one with the words that would become the title for the next chapter. I did not find the movement between centuries tiring; I was too caught up in the characters, and fascinated to see the parallels she drew between some little-known history and the present.

I had already read the book when I saw the Atlantic magazine pan of it (by an Oxford professor) -- a review that totally missed the subtle ways that Kingsolver uses one character to challenge another, effectively challenging some of our present assumptions as well. While the novel conveys despair over what we've lost as a society and urgency about what we face as residents of planet Earth, Kingsolver also points us toward hope.


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

Join Date: 03/11/15

Posts: 68

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RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I must confess that I would probably have stopped reading Unsheltered if it hadn't been for my commitment to participating in this online discussion.
I am a Kingsolver fan, but I found this book kind of boring until Mary Treat came into the picture. I would have loved this to be a historical novel centered on Miss Treat's life.
I normally don't mind books with parallel stories in different time periods, but this one seemed too much of a stretch.
The concept was OK, but the execution really missed the mark.


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

Join Date: 09/17/18

Posts: 5

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I wasn't sure how I'd like moving back and forth between the parallel stories but it didn't bother me at all, and I really appreciated how seeing the same problems/issues in the two time periods added depth to each half of the story. After "Flight Behavior" I knew I'd be on the same page as Kingsolver with environmental and ecological issues, but I also enjoyed the discussions about the role of science. I liked the way that Landis became a 19th century stand-in for Trump; I liked many of the characters (Mary Treat, Thatcher, Willa, Tig, Polly); I liked her writing. In fact, I need one more book group book for the spring and this title is now high on my list.


Posted Oct. 30, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
caroler

Join Date: 01/12/16

Posts: 12

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I experienced much of the same reactions as the feedback above. It was a chore to finish it. Usually I listen to Kingsolver's books because she reads them and I always think if the author is reading you get her emotion and understanding of the book. I had to chastise myself because one of my common complaints about modern readers is that we don't want chapters that are 30 pages long, we want a Patterson 2 page chapter, a wam bam thank you mam kind of read. In this book I thought our author got a little wordy and I had to force myself not to skip over long passages. Let's face it, as readers we owe our authors a little leeway in getting on a soap box, I thought Kingsolver was very clever in tying these two generations together the way she did. To be honest, I would have liked the story fleshed out a little more without so much history.


Posted Oct. 30, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
caroles

Join Date: 07/11/16

Posts: 4

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I enjoyed the book very much. Yes, it is intense, intelligent, well written, passionate and has excellent character development. The characters in the present day time line were very relatable to me. The topics Kingsolver takes on, from suicide, mother/daughter relationships, grandparents raising the grandchildren, the environment, investing, our political climate, to name only a few, are issues many of us are wrestling with. Her love of natural science is something I share. I too have stood in a bog looking down at beautiful pitcher plants and was totally in awe. I have to admit, that scene totally won me over!


Posted Oct. 30, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Maggie

Join Date: 01/01/16

Posts: 173

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RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I am a Kingsolver fan and was looking forward to reading this book. It is full of colorful characters each living in a home that is falling down around them as are their lives. I liked each chapter going back and forth from the 1800’s to present time. The politics in both times were interesting. However it is not one of my favorite of Kingsolver’s books. As someone said in an answer to another question the book was disjointed. I agree also I found reading the chapters about the 1800’s a bit boring.


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

Join Date: 04/18/12

Posts: 45

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I'm a Barbara Kingsolver fan, so I was predisposed to like it. I wasn't disappointed. Jumping back and forth between the narratives didn't bother me. In fact, I found myself looking forward to seeing how she would make the connections.


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

Join Date: 05/25/17

Posts: 13

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I know Kingsolver has strong political and scientific views.I was absolutely over the moon about Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven. Poisonwood Bible is an all time favorite. I proudly sold many of her books in the 80's and 90's when I had a book store. Unsheltered was just too heavy handed for me. Incidentally, when I was reading it I was caring for a new grandchild. She captured the nuances of today's child care, baby needs, "stuff" perfectly. It was my favorite part of the book.


Posted Nov. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
poornimaa

Join Date: 05/16/12

Posts: 53

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RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I agree with Veronica above. While I agree with Kingsolver's political stance, I felt like the plot was a thin veil for her to get on her soapbox. It felt too forced after a while.


Posted Nov. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 204

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RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Sorry to say that I was not impressed, enthralled, or overall taken in by this novel; therefore, it was almost a chore to continue reading. Though I appreciate reading about various points of view, I feel that at times Kingsolver went overboard and took liberty to preach to her readers.


Posted Nov. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
judyg

Join Date: 04/20/11

Posts: 30

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Also a long-term Kingsolver fan I really enjoyed this book. It was so relevant to today as well as to the characters in the two time periods. I did not find it to be "preachy" as other readers have expressed. Our own personality, political party, generation and religion will shape the perspective with which we read the book. After all Mary Treat aptly summed it up when she said, "Presumptions of a lifetime are perilous things to overturn."* (Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver, page 204, first paragraph).

I've developed an ability to look at interactions from multiple perspectives, shifting from one person to another, walking in the others' shoes. Perhaps this is why I was able to continue enjoying Kingsolver as a great author, including Unsheltered.


Posted Nov. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rco

Join Date: 11/04/18

Posts: 10

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I am a huge fan of Barbara Kingsolver and although I enjoyed Unsheltered for her rich vocabulary and beautiful writing style it will not be my favorite. The lightly veiled political references to the present administration kind of spoiled it for me. Perhaps reading the book at a different time would have been better. Right now I can barely turn the news on due to all the nasty political rhetoric and I really wanted to just sit back and enjoy some wonderful writing, not be hit full on with more politics. Despite that she will remain one of my favorite authors.


Posted Nov. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
candaceb

Join Date: 03/30/14

Posts: 40

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I am a big fan of “ The Poisonwood Bible” and hoped this book would grab me the way it did. I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. I couldn’t get involved with any of the characters in a way that I couldn’t put the book down. I do agree with so many of Kingsolver’s ideas and didn’t find it preachy as some readers did. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and would certainly say it was worth reading.


Posted Nov. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbarar

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 6

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I enjoyed Unsheltered. The characters were well developed. I especially liked the evolving relationships between Willa and Tig, and Thatcher and Mary. I ended up using a lot of color-coded post-its for passages that applied to shelter, passages that related the Vineland attitude toward Landis to attitudes in today’s politics, and for thought-provoking passages, especially Tig’s philosophy of the world.


Posted Nov. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
charleneds

Join Date: 03/21/17

Posts: 24

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I wasn't sure I was going to like it - I haven't liked all of her books. I loved this book - I couldn't wait to get home at night and read. I can't wait to pass it along to my family and friends. It was a great story with interesting characters - characters I loved and rooted for and characters I thoroughly disliked.


Posted Nov. 05, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
julieo

Join Date: 04/09/17

Posts: 7

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I enjoyed Unsheltered but it may have helped that I agree with ALL of Barbara Kingsolver's political messages! It was hard to keep up with the current "hot topics" woven into the story! The book is well written, it affected me emotionally more than a few times with chuckles, tears and dislike for a character or two. The world would be a better place if we lived by Tig's philosophy of life.


Posted Nov. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
nancyn

Join Date: 05/12/16

Posts: 25

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

If you are looking for a book to escape the media, this is not the book for you.
If you are looking for a book to strengthen your belief in God, this is not the book for you.
'From some storms, no shelter is possible."


Posted Nov. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
phyllisrelyea

Join Date: 04/13/12

Posts: 17

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

As always Kingsolver gives us a good story with hidden environmental, social, and political lessons. At first I had trouble wit's the dual story line with present day 2016 and 1870's in Vineland, NJ. By the end of the book, the two stories were seamless and read easily from one to the other.


Posted Nov. 17, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lloster

Join Date: 04/23/11

Posts: 7

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I generally love Kingsolver's fiction and non-fiction, and am on the same page politically, yet I agree that this book was heavy handed. I loved the transition between centuries, yet the focus on Thatcher instead of Mary was perplexing. The characters of Rose and her mother were so stereotypical, with little depth and predictable reactions. The rehashing of the arguments over Darwin's new theory I found tiresome as I've read this so often. I enjoyed the theme of being Unsheltered through the centuries, physically and philosophically as the ground beneath our feet shifts and the world changes around us, whether we are ready for it or not. The message that all we can do is evolve and adapt, harking back to Darwin's theory is a powerful one.
Also, I really was enriched by her portrayal of millennial, it was a perspective I hadn't thought of and I am still pondering her ideas on the subject.


Posted Nov. 26, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
audrey1

Join Date: 09/02/13

Posts: 30

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I am a great fan of Barbara Kingslover. But I was disappointed by the book. I was put off by the character Thatcher. He seemed to be very inflexible and not able to bond with anyone for long. Mary seemed to accept what she had experienced and figured out to come to peace with herself. Poor Rose.


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

Join Date: 11/04/18

Posts: 10

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

I responded earlier that I had a negative feeling for this book but I have read half of it for a second time and have totally changed my mind. There is a huge number of issues to digest and mull over. I have only read half the book this time because I went back and read all the chapters with the current family. I found this more interesting and enjoyable when I didn't have to keep switching between characters and time periods.
I could keep the thread of one story going. I am not a fan of the current trend of writers who are writing in this skipping back and forth mode. I will go back again and read the other "half" of the book skipping every other chapter.


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

Join Date: 08/24/14

Posts: 24

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

rco -- That's really interesting that you've gone back and gotten more out of the book by reading just the contemporary story line. I have to admit I found Willa's story a lot more engaging than Thatcher's, and I would often be impatient to get through one of the historical chapters so I could get back to the present day.


Posted Dec. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
windellh

Join Date: 11/05/17

Posts: 30

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

i thought the book was a great read because of good character development and an almost believable story. The political views presented here are common in real life and therefore not a distraction from the story.


Posted Dec. 12, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ritabook

Join Date: 12/12/18

Posts: 3

RE: Overall, what did you think of Unsheltered? (no spoilers in this thread please)

Overall I loved this novel. I appreciated how each character presented a point of view that played off of the others' sensibilities. I love books that leave you with a lot to think about and ponder. (it would be a great selection for a book club group.) The dual time periods were an integral part of the overall message so I don't agree with the criticism of that story line. Also, if an author can't express herself and her views in her writing what's the point? I did not see it as "preachy" as others did but revelatory. I appreciate Kingsolver's ability to give words to the messy cloud of emotional onslaught we are faced with each day and form it into a concrete story that is relatable. The story deals directly with scientific discoveries and humans reluctance to adapt to new theories that shake our foundations. I happen to be from a family of scientists so I have always loved Kingsolver's scientific background blended with a deep spiritual love of nature. If that is preachy, so be it!


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