Excerpt from Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Discuss |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Unsheltered

A Novel

by Barbara Kingsolver

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver X
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2018, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 15, 2019, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

1. Falling House

"The simplest thing would be to tear it down," the man said. "The house is a shambles."

She took this news as a blood-rush to the ears: a roar of peasant ancestors with rocks in their fists, facing the evictor. But this man was a contractor. Willa had called him here and she could send him away. She waited out her panic while he stood looking at her shambles, appearing to nurse some satisfaction from his diagnosis. She picked out words.

"It's not a living thing. You don't just pronounce it dead. Anything that goes wrong with a structure can be replaced with another structure. Am I right?"

"Correct. What I am saying is that the structure needing to be replaced is all of it. I'm sorry. Your foundation is nonexistent."

Again the roar on her eardrums. She stared at the man's black coveralls, netted with cobwebs he'd collected in the crawl space. Petrofaccio was his name. Pete. "How could a house this old have a nonexistent foundation?"

"Not the entire house. You see where they put on this addition? Those walls have nothing substantial to rest on. And the addition entails your kitchen, your bathrooms, everything you basically need in a functional house."

Includes, she thought. Entails is the wrong word.

One of the neighbor kids slid out his back door. His glance hit Willa and bounced off quickly as he cut through the maze of cars in his yard and headed out to the alley. He and his brother worked on the vehicles mostly at night, sliding tools back and forth under portable utility lights. Their quiet banter and intermittent Spanish expletives of frustration or success drifted through Willa's bedroom windows as the night music of a new town. She had no hard feelings toward the vehicle bone yard, or these handsome boys and their friends who all wore athletic shorts and plastic bath shoes as if life began in a locker room. The wrong here was a death sentence falling on her house while that one stood by, nonchalant, with its swaybacked roofline and vinyl siding peeling off in leprous shreds. Willa's house was brick. Not straw or sticks, not a thing to get blown away in a puff.

The silence had extended beyond her turn to speak. Mr. Petrofaccio courteously examined the two mammoth trees that shaded this yard and half the block. Willa had admired the pair of giants out her kitchen window and assumed they were as old as the house, but hadn't credited them with a better life expectancy.

"I have no idea why someone would do that," he finally offered. "Put up an addition with no foundation. No reputable contractor would do that."

It did seem to be sitting directly on the ground, now that she looked, with the bottom courses of bricks relaxing out of rank into wobbly rows. A carapace of rusted tin roofing stretched over the gabled third floor and the two-story addition cobbled on the back, apparently in haste. Two tall chimneys leaned in opposite directions. Cracks zigzagged lightning-wise down the brick walls. How had she not seen all this? Willa was the one who raised her anxiety-shield against every family medical checkup or phone ringing after hours, expecting the worst so life couldn't blindside them. But she'd looked up contractors that morning with no real foreboding. Probably assuming her family had already used up its quota of misfortune.

"I can't hire you to tear down my house and start over." Willa ran her hands through her hair at the temples, and felt idiotic. Both-hands-on-the-temples was a nervous habit she'd been trying to break for about twenty years, since her kids told her it made her look like The Scream. She shoved her fists into the pockets of her khaki shorts. "We were thinking we'd fix it up, sell it and get something closer to Philadelphia. We don't need this much room. Nobody needs this much room."

Excerpted from Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Copyright © 2018 by Barbara Kingsolver. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    by Marlon James
    If you are looking for an indulgent, escapist fantasy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf may not be for you. ...
  • Book Jacket: That Time I Loved You
    That Time I Loved You
    by Carianne Leung
    Carrianne Leung was a Toronto Book Award finalist for That Time I Loved You as well as for her debut...
  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Smiling Man
    The Smiling Man
    by Joseph Knox
    Joseph Knox's latest turns on a simple premise: an unidentified and unidentifiable murdered man is ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    A People's History of Heaven
    by Mathangi Subramanian

    A story of love and friendship, and fighting for the places we love.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    American Princess
    by Stephanie Marie Thornton

    Rated 4.9 stars by BookBrowse members - one of the highest scores of all time!
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.