Reader reviews and comments on Unless, plus links to write your own review.

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Unless

by Carol Shields

Unless by Carol Shields
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  • First Published:
    May 2002, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2003, 336 pages

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Erin McGrath

Unless will be a book that lives on in my heart. It has touched me deeply in a way I can only try to begin to explain. I started reading this book shortly after I found out my sister was murdered and I thought I would find commonality between Norah and my sister as they had both ended up 'on the street'. I gave up on this book after seventy pages because I thought it was trite and so far removed from what women actually go through when they are disregarded by society. It took me a year and a lot of healing before I could return to the book and when I did I was captivated by Carol's words, such simplicity and bare bone honesty I felt like I knew her - and she knew me. Amazing. What I didn't understand until the last pages was that the daughter who was traumatized by the chain of events, who had to deal with her trauma in a way that made sense to her had nothing to do with who my sister was, instead it had everything to do with what happened to me in that year after we heard 'the news'. I was the person, who like Norah was traumatized by a tragedy I had no control of, a series of events that fateful evening that will forever change my family and will remain a part of our history for how ever long it takes a horrific act of mysogyny to run its course. But what I get from Carol Shields is a sense of optimism. The way she weaves women's lives together with a sense that we're all in it together, bonded and united and so strong! After reading the book I cried but not from sadness rather from a sense of relief that its okay to juxtapose happiness on top of sadness, that life runs its course. With good friends and a great family I'll survive and from my tragedy has come a wonderful sense of compassion towards other people as I know we are who we are not necesarily from the good in our lives but by how we have dealt with tragedy and sadness.
Shirley Johnson

I am so grateful for Carol Shields and her works. I know it can't be true, but it always seems as though the words just pour out onto the page effortlessly. It is difficult to say why a book "hits" you, but one way I judge it for myself is in how many scenes remain in my head. I'm a true book "junkie" and indelible pictures of "Stone Diaries" remain along with the feelings which came while reading. So, when "Unless" came out, I was confident that I"d enjoy it too. As in all her writings, somehow the people seem immediately familiar and true. The feelings the characters have seem dead-on in my experience. And, as in Diaries" there is a comfort in knowing that someone else seems to be having the same sort of experiences in life that I've had at least in emotional if not specific content. Well, it's easy to see why Carol Shields is the writer and I the reader! Once again I can only express my gratitude for her and to wish her well in all that comes to her.
Shirley Johnson
Amy B

This book is excellent. Very touching . Carol Shields you did it again . . . You've made the Big One! This book is very compeling and very heart touching.
Helen H

I found the book very difficult to engage with, as I felt the author was juggling too many themes and that she had not a clear strategy for combining these themes in order to make the book a complete entitity. The characterization was very sketchy, apart from Reta, and therefore it was difficult to empathize with the family. The periferal characters were so lightly drawn, even Norah, that the complexities of the situation were simplified. The constant 'navel gazing' of Reta was at best distracting and at worst annoying. The ending of the book was also disappointing. The cause of Norah's withdrawal seeming implausible when taking iinto account the very little we have learnt of her character prior to the incident. I shall not be seeking out any more of Ms. Shields work.
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