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Unsheltered: A Novel

Unsheltered: A Novel


Unsheltered: A Novel

ratings:
4/5 (167 ratings)
Length:
16 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 16, 2018
ISBN:
9780062865502
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

The New York Times bestselling author of Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, and The Poisonwood Bible and recipient of numerous literary awards—including the National Humanities Medal, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Orange Prize—returns with a timely novel that interweaves past and present to explore the human capacity for resiliency and compassion in times of great upheaval.

Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it's so unnerving that she's arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart. The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.

In an act of desperation, Willa begins to investigate the history of her home, hoping that the local historical preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its direly needed repairs. Through her research into Vineland's past and its creation as a Utopian community, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s, Thatcher Greenwood.

A science teacher with a lifelong passion for honest investigation, Thatcher finds himself under siege in his community for telling the truth: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting new theory recently published by Charles Darwin. Thatcher's friendships with a brilliant woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor draw him into a vendetta with the town's most powerful men. At home, his new wife and status-conscious mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his financial worries and the news that their elegant house is structurally unsound.

Brilliantly executed and compulsively listenable, Unsheltered is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum, as they navigate the challenges of surviving a world in the throes of major cultural shifts. In this mesmerizing story told in alternating chapters, Willa and Thatcher come to realize that though the future is uncertain, even unnerving, shelter can be found in the bonds of kindred—whether family or friends—and in the strength of the human spirit.

Publisher:
Released:
Oct 16, 2018
ISBN:
9780062865502
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of nine bestselling works of fiction, including the novels, Flight Behavior, The Lacuna, The Poisonwood Bible, Animal Dreams, and The Bean Trees, as well as books of poetry, essays, and creative nonfiction. Her work of narrative nonfiction is the enormously influential bestseller Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Kingsolver’s work has been translated into more than twenty languages and has earned literary awards and a devoted readership at home and abroad. She was awarded the National Humanities Medal, our country’s highest honor for service through the arts, as well as the prestigious Dayton Literary Peace Prize for her body of work. She lives with her family on a farm in southern Appalachia.

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4.2
167 ratings / 50 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver is such a skilled writer it is so easy to immediately get immersed in the stories. Mary Treat was a really interesting character and I was happy to learn at the end that she was a real person. I felt Kingsolver was kind of hittin gus over the head with the themes of crisis and change in society, which brings my rating down. As an archivist and museum professional I was also annoyed by the eccentric historical society man--especially at the end when he accepted the blanket and said he'd provide an appraisal and receipt! Totally not correct, which was an unsatisfying detail in an otherwise well researched novel.
  • (4/5)
    Willa and her husband Iano are forced to move after he loses his job in academia and the housing that came with it. They settle in Vineland, NJ, not far from Philadelphia where Iano will take up a new teaching position. WIlla plans a return to freelance journalism to supplement Iano’s income, but almost immediately the family is thrown into crisis when adult daughter Tig arrives on their doorstep, and son Zeke faces unbearable tragedy. Iano’s father is also in poor health, and Willa shoulders most of the day-to-day responsibility for his care. And then their house starts falling apart, and an inspection identifies a need for several very expensive structural repairs. It’s almost too much for one family to bear.Unsheltered is also the story of Thatcher Greenwood, a late 1800s high school science teacher living in Vineland -- in fact, in the very house Willa and her family now occupy. Thatcher and his family are also recent arrivals to Vineland, but he immediately ran afoul of school authorities by teaching Darwin’s theories. Thatcher’s story is told alongside Willa’s through alternating chapters, a technique Kingsolver uses to show the parallels between those who refuted the theory of evolution and those who today refuse to accept climate change. I liked much of Kingsolver’s literary technique in this novel. The past- and present-day narratives worked very well, and the mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter left me wanting more, every time. The challenging mother-daughter relationship is excellently portrayed, but with Tig as the voice of environmental stewardship, the relationship is often overshadowed by Tig’s tendency to launch into diatribes about ruining the planet. This preachiness is characteristic of Kingsolver’s novels. Tor the most part I managed to accept it and enjoy the historic and present-day storylines, but it still affected my overall impression of the book. I read this for a book club and expect it will provide plenty of fuel for discussion.
  • (4/5)
    Loved the history interwoven here, the fictional stories, and the way the last words of one chapter formed the chapter title of the next.
  • (5/5)
    Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for her hard work and dedication but a stack of unpaid bills and an inherited brick home in Vineland, New Jersey, that is literally falling apart. The magazine where she worked has folded, and the college where her husband had tenure has closed. The dilapidated house is also home to her ailing and cantankerous Greek father-in-law and her two grown children: her stubborn, free-spirited daughter, Tig, and her dutiful debt-ridden, ivy educated son, Zeke, who has arrived with his unplanned baby in the wake of a life-shattering development.In an act of desperation, Willa begins to investigate the history of her home, hoping that the local historical preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its direly needed repairs. Through her research into Vineland’s past and its creation as a Utopian community, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s, Thatcher Greenwood.A science teacher with a lifelong passion for honest investigation, Thatcher finds himself under siege in his community for telling the truth: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting new theory recently published by Charles Darwin. Thatcher’s friendships with a brilliant woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor draw him into a vendetta with the town’s most powerful men. At home, his new wife and status-conscious mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his financial worries and the news that their elegant house is structurally unsound.
  • (4/5)
    An enjoyable read. Characters are well developed. Uses the popular device of switching back and forth between one story and another in the same setting but very different times culturally. Commentary on a planned development and what its leaders really desired. Great study of sibling rivalry and how parents relate to very different children. Leaves the reader a bit sad.
  • (4/5)
    Once again Kingsolver tries to make us open our eyes to what humans are doing to the planet. When will it be too late? Is it already?Kept trying to put the parallels between the time periods into words but luckily the author did it for me with Willa thinking about the Thatcher time period --Mary's correspondence with her scientist friends suggested the gentle Victorians of Vineland, and America for that matter, had shit for brains. They resisted Darwin's logic and rationality in general, to an extent that struck Willa as nuts. A great shift was dawning, with the human masters' place in the kingdom much reduced from its former glory. She could see how this might lead to a sense of complete disorientation in the universe. But still. The old paradigm was an obsolete shell; the writing on the wall was huge. They just wouldn't read.I imagine Tig could say the exact same about her mother's generation and her grandfather's generation. Willa can't see it going on around her but she could see it in the past.
  • (1/5)
    Probably read 80%, founding it boring and tiresome like walking through sludge. It is about the occupants of the same house many generations apart. If the story was split in half it would have been a fun read, but the switching centuries with each chapter made it arduous. I think I would have preferred a science book.
  • (4/5)
    Kingsolver moves between two sets of protagonists in this thoughtful novel, and at first the reader thinks the connection (and the book’s title) refer to the falling-down home they occupy, separated by 140 years.Willa Knox is caught in an inherited money-pit of a house and sandwiched between the needs of her disabled father-in-law and her suddenly-unemployed adult son, who is traumatized by the unexpected death of his partner and utterly unprepared to deal with their newborn son. Her college professor husband is underemployed but perfectly happy; it is Willa who has to try to figure out how to keep it all together when her own job in journalism has disappeared.Thatcher Greenwood, likewise, is saddled by a disintegrating home and a disintegrating personal life. His livelihood is challenged by his insistence on teaching scientific method (including Darwin’s theories) at a school controlled by fundamentalist biblical literalists. His beautiful young wife is slowly drawing away from him, and his deepening friendship with the prominent woman biologist who lives next door, isn’t helping things any.So far, this sounds like the set-up for any number of domestic dramas. But Kingsolver, as always, wants to dig deeper. As Willa finds herself trying to comprehend the astonishingly successful presidential campaign of a bigoted, bombastic, bully (who is unnamed but instantly identifiable), defended and championed at top volume by her father-in-law, Thatcher tries to shine the light of scientific research into cupboards locked tight in the belly of Noah’s Ark. Eventually, we realize that both are dealing with groups of people whose worlds are being threatened. They were “[b]orn under the moon of paradigm shift, [and] got to be present to a world turning over on itself.”Both the blue-collar worker of the early 21st century and the power brokers of the mid-19th century are fighting for their existence. The contemporary working man sees the American Dream moving farther and farther out of his grasp, and looks for salvation from pie-in-the-sky promises that no one is going to cut in line in front of them. The worldview of the mid-19th century social arbiters is being overturned and their God-given supremacy challenged. And bystanders Willa and Thatcher are in danger of being “unsheltered” as the truths in which they have always believed begin to crumble under the paroxysms of that world shift.Kingsolver manages to bring things to a hopeful ending, if not a particularly happy one, and her characters emerge from their challenges changed but not defeated.
  • (5/5)
    Two great stories, woven as one.
  • (5/5)
    Not close to a Barbara Kingsolver favorite, but still very good.
  • (5/5)
    Kingsolver is one of my favourite authors although I haven't loved everything I've read by her. But I did love this. I was delighted how the dual timeline tied together, and how the house became a character itself.
  • (5/5)
    "Unsheltered" is a brilliantly constructed novel of historical fiction that uses an old house to bind characters from the 19th century to a group of them from the 21st. It all happens in Vineland, New Jersey, and involves a small group of historical figures that very few readers of the novel will have ever heard. But that's part of the brilliance of Kingsolver's story - and it helps to make the author's fictional characters almost indistinguishable from those who lived and breathed in Vineland in the past.Willa Knox and her husband are relocating again. And as has happened to the couple several times before, they are moving so that Iano, Willa's husband, can chase tenure at a different college. The couple have two adult children who flew the nest a few years earlier, but the near poverty-stricken couple this time around is inheriting Iano's crotchety father. Adding to their financial problems, is the fact that Willa finds herself working as a freelance writer for the first time in years because the magazine for which she has most recently worked has folded. All that would be enough to floor many couples, but that's just the beginning of the couple's troubles in Vineland because one night the phone rings, and what their son tells them dwarfs every problem they have ever had or feared. Kingsolver alternates chapters from the 19th and 21st centuries, contrasting and comparing life in Vineland then and now, and finding life in the two periods surprisingly similar. The 19th century chapters focus on a handful of historical figures, scientist Mary Treat; school teacher and Darwin defender, Thatcher Greenwood; Charles Landis, founder of the Vineland utopia; and the man murdered by Landis, one Uri Carruth.My only quibble with the novel, and it is admittedly a minor one, is the often heavy-handed Trump criticism that is sprinkled throughout the book (Trump is not named, but it is very obvious that the author has him in mind). In addition, global warming is used to ridicule those who still refuse to accept that as a given, and one character gleefully explains that she can hardly wait for all the "old men" to finally die off so that her generation can take over the government. That all grew a bit tedious, and even as good a writer as Kingsolver, cannot quite pull it off. (And, yes, I realize that this was part of the author's character development, but it was unnecessary to go on and on and on about this side of those characters.)
  • (3/5)
    Like many others, I've always enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver's novels. The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Flight Behavior, and of course The Poisonwood Bible have all been favorites of mine. But Unsheltered is part novel, part lecture about the evils of capitalism, our materialistic society, and lack of a secure future for so many hardworking people in our country. And the odd thing is that with me, Kingsolver is preaching to the choir. Politically, I agree with almost all of her points. But, if I'm reading a novel, I don't want a character to insert in the conversation a bullet point list of the evils of capitalism. I enjoyed parts of this, but there were huge sections that I wanted to skip.
  • (4/5)
    This story was told in real time and in the past. The story resolves around a house that is left to a family and their efforts to get it repaired. I am a fan of Barbara Kingsolver and really like her novels. I am only ginving this one 4 stars because I think the story dragged a little in the middle. I will say it got better toward the end and I liked the way she intertwined the present with the past. She also has a strong message about climate change and the future of our planet that I don’t disagree with.
  • (4/5)
    Unraveling of the middle class belief that education and following the rules will guarantee family security and upward mobility. Kingsolver again makes nature a large part of the narrative which she does beautifully with a keen eye and great language. The books gets a bit harpy especially the 19th century piece with the discussion of Decency vs Darwin. However, Kingsolver has a sly wit about our current predicament with a president and his base that doesn't buy into science and truth with any more relish that they fair folks of 1870's century Vineland PA. Fun aside, Willa's husband Iano is Greek with humorous vulgar and expressive language skills, in Greek. Characters Willa, Zeke, Tig Tavoularis and Thatcher Greenwood and Mary Treat - 1870's.
  • (4/5)
    With its alternating chapters, this novel has an interesting juxtaposition of two families that lived on the same plot of land a hundred and fifty years apart. It was particularly interesting to see how the masses ignored science and favored Christianity over Darwin in the late 1800's and compare that to the rise of Donald Trump and his ignorance in present day.
  • (4/5)
    BK is one of my favorites, but this was a little disappointing. Agree fully with njinthesun and jeane below. Willa and her sexy husband were unsympathetic. Are we GenXers really that self-absorbed? Is waiting for the toxic generation to die really our only hope? I would have preferred Tig's POV on the whole thing. The 1880s plot was more engaging but abandoned many of its themes and wrapped up too hurriedly in the end.
  • (2/5)
    I normally love Barbara Kingsolver but alas not this one
  • (4/5)
    I do love Barbara Kingsolver and I enjoyed this book, but can't say I loved it. Very readable and I enjoyed learning about Mary Treat (will be looking into learning more about her), but some of Kingsolver's message just seemed too forced. I totally agree with her views, but wasn't always impressed with the way she wove them into the story. The book is physically beautiful and I especially liked the letter to the reader in the editions sold at independent book stores.
  • (4/5)
    Interestingly this novel takes place in Vineland, New Jersey and the streets off of Landis Avenue are described as they were once envisioned when Charles Landis developed his utopian community for this area in South Jersey. Besides the true life facts of an area I know pretty well, Kingsolver intertwined two narratives, one current and one in the 1870s, which are used to illustrate her themes, namely the idea of feeling unsheltered. This is a time when the promises of the world seem to be fading, like the idea of a job was guaranteed out of college or a pension at the end of a career. Even the actual dwelling that the two protagonists inhabit are in shambles. While in present day an unnamed presidential candidate says he could shoot a man on Main Street and get away with it, in the story of 1875 this actually happens. The two protagonist of the narrative are Willa Hoyt and Thatcher Greenwood. Willa and her husband have inherited a dilapidated house in 2016 just when their respective jobs went out of business. Willa has two children, one of which suffers the loss of his girlfriend to suicide within the first chapter. His newborn child becomes part of Willa's family along with her very independent and environmentally outspoken daughter named Tig. In the alternating chapters we come to know Thatcher Greenwood who has recently been hired as the new science teacher to one of the first high schools in the country. His paradox is to be a scientist while not being able to mention the name or teachings of the dreaded Charles Darwin. He seeks consolation from a neighbor next door who is his intellectual soulmate and is in fact the scientist Mary Treat. Kingsolver does a nice job intertwining the historical with the plausible to make for an educational and enjoyable read. Highly recommend.NYT Kingsolver’s dual narrative works beautifully here. By giving us a family and a world teetering on the brink in 2016, and conveying a different but connected type of 19th-century teetering, Kingsolver eventually creates a sense not so much that history repeats itself, but that as humans we’re inevitably connected through the possibility of collapse, whether it’s the collapse of our houses, our bodies, logic, the social order or earth itself.
  • (4/5)
    Set in Vineland, NJ, this novel moves back and forth from 1875 to present day.There are 2 families involved in the two time periods living in a house that is not structurally sound.The first family, the Greenwood’s, have moved into their inherited house.Thatcher is a science teacher at Vineland High School.He is already at odds with the school principal because Thatcher wants to teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.Next door to the Greenwoods lives the botanist, Mary Treat, who is well known for her studies and corresponds with Darwin. In the current part of the story , Willa Knox , moves her family into a house that is falling apart around her with her family, who are not in much better shape themselves.Willa struggles to keep everyone and everything on track and her job does not get easier when she suddenly has to take over the care of her son’s newborn baby.The story alternates by chapters. Characterization is excellent and the historical facts and events well researched. Mary Treat, an actual person, is certainly worthy of further reading.The botany descriptions are as expected, scholarly.I am familiar with the Vineland of today but I was intrigued with the Vineland of the 1870s.
  • (4/5)
    “Unsheltered, I live in daylight. And the wandering bird I rest in thee.”Kingsolver's latest novel, is told in dueling narratives. The first focuses on Willa Knox, in modern day New Jersey, living precariously in a ramshackle old house, she inherited. She is struggling to keep her life and family together, but like the house, it keeps threatening to fall to apart. The second narrative, set in the 1880s, deals with a science teacher and his friendship with an eccentric and brilliant naturalist, (a real-life figure) named Mary Treat. It is a well-written, deeply researched book. It is a bit rambling at times, and I would have liked it a bit tighter but it is still a solid read and takes a couple of shots at the current administration, which of course I admire.
  • (4/5)
    "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold". The poet's words would capture the theme of Kingsolver's terrific new novel about the unraveling of society in the early 21st century. Willa and her husband Ione have seen their comfortable middle class life collapse; they have played by the rules of contemporary America, but things have gone badly for them. He was a professor at a college in Virginia that closed and she an editor of a magazine that folded. This necessitated a move to Vineland, New Jersey to a Victorian-era home Willa has inheirited. (Vineland's origins were as a planned and sort of utopian community started by Captain Landis who exercised iron control over the community.) Ione has taken a low-paying teaching job at a small college in Philadelphia. They are joined by Tig, their radical 30-something daughter fresh from a long stay in Cuba, their son Nick and his infant son and Ione's irascible and racist Greek father in failing health. Nick is newly a widower following the suicide of his wife. Nick is trying start a socially-responsible hedge fund company in Boston so he's mostly absent from New Jersey. His and Tig's views about the meaning of continual and unrestrained growth as the underpinning of capitalism are sharply at odds.A metaphor of their personal collapse, the home is literally falling down; they are so financially strapped they have no means to repair it. Willa thinks she can possibly get grant money if the house can be determined to be historically significant. While researching she finds references to Mary Treat, a naturalist from the 19th century who may have lived in the home. Treat (an actual person) studied the flora and fauna of the region and was in communication with Charles Darwin and other notable scientists of the era. The time period shifts to 1875 when Thatcher Greenwood, his new bride, her sister and his mother-in-law move into the home. They have moved from Boston following the death of his father-in-law. Here also, the home is falling down and Thatcher has no hope of repairing it since he has only a poorly compensated teaching job at a local academy. Thatcher becomes an admirerer and friend of Treat with whom he shares an interest in modern science, particularly Darwin's recently published theory of descent through natural selection. He is awed that she is a correspondant of Darwin and other scientists. Thatcher wants to share Darwin's work with his students, but is harshly suppressed by the school's principal, a fervant believer in the literalism of the biblical version of creation. The chapters alternate between the present and past, each depicting the conflict brought about by powerful interests that persevere in preserving the status quo of outmoded structures and quash the emerging imperative realities of changing circumstances and factors impacting on society and the world. Willa's daughter, Tig, is of the cadre of millenials who recognize that unrestrained capitalism and the materialistic compulsions of society to consume more and more will result in the desolation of the planet. Willa senses this, but cannot abandon the hope that somehow everything will right itself, that their bad fortune will reverse. Willa understands Tig's viewpoint but cannot shed the cultural rules and norms that have governed their lives. Thatcher's struggles with his principal grow, culminating in a public debate in which his logic and knowledge of modern science humiliate the principal's inane biblical explanations of creation. Nonetheless, Thatcher loses his job and then his marriage, as his wife has become frustrated by their failure to move up in the town's society.As Kingsolver does so well, the novel blends a fascinating story with a cautionary message about the perils to humankind and the planet brought about by our blith ignorance of the impact our materialistic behavior 0n the environment. (See also "Flight Behavior" for similar sense of her message.) Written in 2016, the book gives slightly veiled references to the distasteful"bullhorn" political candidate whose views will take us further down the wrong road. Perhaps this work's themes are a bit too obvious and didactic, but it is nonetheless an important one. I'm surprised that "Unsheltered", while well-reviewed, did not make any of the lists of outstanding novels of 2018.An interesting non-fiction companion book to "Unsheltered", though a few years old now, is "The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America" by George Packer.
  • (5/5)
    I love her stories and commentary on the world. The house is the focal point. Not sure if the 2 stories work together. Such a great writer
  • (5/5)
    I have read every novel that Barbara Kingsolver has written along with some of her non-fiction. She is one of my favorite authors so I am predisposed to view her books in a favorable light even before I read them. She also tackles big social issues about the environment, colonialism, current economic inequities, and the unfairness of the current unequal order of the USA in 2018. Because I share her progressive bent, I felt that this book might be the best book that I read in 2018. Kingsolver uses parallel stories that alternate chapters. One deals with an extended family living in Vineland, New Jersey during the time of the 2016 election campaign. The other story also takes place in Vineland but in 1875. The key character in 2016 is Willa Knox who is living in a house that she inherited that is basically falling apart. She is an unemployed freelance writer, her husband an underpaid college professor, along with their daughter Tig who is 26 and just returned from a year in Cuba, their son Zeke who is very educated but due to tragedy is forced to be unemployed and raising a newborn child on his own. Throw in a sick, dying racist father in law and you have a full kettle of every part of the political spectrum. Willa feels like she played by the rules but in their 50's she and her husband are on a downward trajectory. Kingsolver makes sure her view point on all issues is quite clear. I find it interesting that some reviewers consider her too preachy but are you preaching when you state your observations and viewpoints? Hey, it's her novel. As Willa tries to see if her house can receive funding as a historic home she researches Mary Treat a real historical person who was connected to Charles Darwin. We see Mary and Thatcher Greenwood a science teacher in Vineland who is also living in a house in shambles on the same plot of that Willa lives on in 2016. Mary and Thatcher are fighting the status quo and negative reaction to Darwins findings that are upsetting the world order in 1875. Kingsolver does a great job of weaving the 2 stories. The writing is excellent and at 450 pages it was just the right length. There is lots to digest in this book but I strongly recommend this book unless you are a right leaning person that still believes that evolution is a hoax and that climate change is not influenced by our pumping carbon into the atmosphere.
  • (5/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver has written some of the best books of the past 30 years, most notably The Poisonwood Bible. She writes about big issues as illuminated by her brilliantly conceived characters. Her latest, Unsheltered, tells a story that many people can relate to today. Willa Knox is a middle-aged mother of two grown children, happily married to Iano, a college professor she has loved forever.When Iano’s college closes, they are forced to move to New Jersey, where Iano found a one-year teaching position at a small college. His very ill father, Nick, lives with them, a man who loves cable news and talk radio and loudly, and profanely blames anyone different from himself for the woes of the country.Soon their son Zeke arrives with a new baby in tow, progressive daughter Tig comes home after two years incommunicado, and life becomes more difficult, made even more so by the fact that the home left to Willa by her aunt is literally falling down around them.Willa lost her job when the magazine she wrote for folded, and money is tight. She discovers that their home may have historical classification, and she begins to research the previous owners in hopes of saving it, and them.Thatcher Greenwood was a science professor who lived in the home after the Civil War. He believed in the work of Charles Darwin, which caused him trouble with his own family and the townspeople of Vineland. People believed Darwin's science was sacrilegious, and it frightened them.Kingsolver writes brilliantly and beautifully in a novel that touches the reader emotionally and rationally. Her characters feel like real people (and some of the historic ones are), and the relationships between them (especially Iano and Willa) are moving. She really nails the family dynamic, especially in times like these when it can be problematic.
  • (5/5)
    Comparing Victorian attitudes with day beliefs, Kingsolver has brought forth a novel that shows we still have a long way to go. Her progressive family in the story has depth and lots to say about politics. Grandpa is clearly a Trump supporter, which his son seems to be able to ignore and causes his daughter-in-law to grit her teeth. It’s a multi-generational family struggling to make ends meet. Living in an inherited home, hoping to be able to find a grant to make it livable provides the fodder for the story that moves from the home inhabitants of post-Civil War times and the current family. As usual, Kingsolver gives us lots to think about.
  • (2/5)
    Got to page 159 and was still not engaged. So disappointed. Maybe if I try it another time.
  • (5/5)
    Barbara Kingsolver is an author whose works I enjoy, but having read some negative reviews on this one, I wasn't sure it would work for me. I also had that apprehension, common to readers, that a favorite author was going to let me down.She didn't.The commonality for this story is a ramshackle house in a 19th century planned community, almost a utopia, gone awry. And the 21st century family who ended up in it. I loved that Mary Treat was a real-life biologist, ahead of her times, even though the story itself is fiction.This book has the common subjects of nature, family, spirituality, beliefs. All subjects that have been done many times before, but in this novel, they put together in a thoughtful and entertaining manner.There is a bit of preachiness in the book, and I understand why people on the other side of the political fence might take offense. I did not. Also, in the audio version I listened to, Barbara Kingsolver read her own work. Sometimes that worked, sometimes it failed. Unlike some audio books, the narration didn't deter me from listening and fall back to reading.
  • (3/5)
    I am sad to say, this book did not engage me. It felt flat and quotidian despite the interesting historical connection. I have enjoyed Ms. Kingsolver's work since her introduction into the literary world. Finding one average novel amongst so many greats is pretty darn impressive!