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Forty-four-year-old Reta Winters, wife, mother, writer, and translator, is living a happy life until one of her three daughters drops out of university to sit on a downtown street corner silent and cross-legged with a begging bowl in her lap and a placard round her neck that says "Goodness."

The final book from Pulitzer Prize-winner Carol Shields, Unless is a candid and deeply moving novel from one of the twentieth century's most accomplished and beloved authors.

Topics: 21st Century, Canadian Author, Daughters, Feminism, Mothers, and Psychological

Published: HarperCollins on Mar 17, 2009
ISBN: 9780061828164
List price: $8.99
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my best frends mum just got a nearly new Mazda MAZDA3 Hatchback only from working part-time off a pc at home... go to this web-site >> T­­­­­­­i­­­­­­­m­­­­­­­e­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­J­­­­­­­o­­­­­­­b­­­­­­­s­­­­­­­3­­­­­­­4­­­­­­.c­­­­o­­­­mread more
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The story Unless is centered around 40-something light fiction author and translator Reta Winters and her model family: her common-law husband of 26-years Tom, their three intelligent daughters, Norah, Christine and Natalie, Reta's mother-in-law Lois and, of course, the family golden retriever, Pet. Their lives reach a cross-roads when 19-year-old Norah, their eldest daughter, disappears one spring day and is discovered by a family friend mute and begging on a Toronto street corner, with a one word sign hanging from her neck: GOODNESS. The story is Reta's examination of past events, the advances, or lack there of, in removing the gender inequities in the world and the really big question, WHY?I loved this story for a number of reasons. I found the writing style to be fluid and accessible - easy to read, understand and appreciate - while the story captures an ordinary family trying to cope and understand what, for them, is incomprehensible. Shields has turned the "writer writing about a writer writing" setup into something with depth, meaning and resonance without being 'over to top' in its portrayal. The same can be said for her approach in tackling the topic of feminism and the lack of acceptance that female writers can be "great writers" on par with their male counterparts. Reta's character is complex, displaying a number of contradictions and weaknesses for the reader to examine and ponder and carries an underlying tension through the story. Overall, I am very impressed with how the story captured my attention early on and held me, fascinated, through to the last word.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Enjoyed reading this over a few days.It made me think a little of the tradgedy of Ellen's short life. It made me think about writing. Reta's writing was cathartic, but not through a tell all about her circumstances, through a different lens. It me me think about writing a novel. I'm not sure I'm brave enough.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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my best frends mum just got a nearly new Mazda MAZDA3 Hatchback only from working part-time off a pc at home... go to this web-site >> T­­­­­­­i­­­­­­­m­­­­­­­e­­­­­­­-­­­­­­­J­­­­­­­o­­­­­­­b­­­­­­­s­­­­­­­3­­­­­­­4­­­­­­.c­­­­o­­­­m
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The story Unless is centered around 40-something light fiction author and translator Reta Winters and her model family: her common-law husband of 26-years Tom, their three intelligent daughters, Norah, Christine and Natalie, Reta's mother-in-law Lois and, of course, the family golden retriever, Pet. Their lives reach a cross-roads when 19-year-old Norah, their eldest daughter, disappears one spring day and is discovered by a family friend mute and begging on a Toronto street corner, with a one word sign hanging from her neck: GOODNESS. The story is Reta's examination of past events, the advances, or lack there of, in removing the gender inequities in the world and the really big question, WHY?I loved this story for a number of reasons. I found the writing style to be fluid and accessible - easy to read, understand and appreciate - while the story captures an ordinary family trying to cope and understand what, for them, is incomprehensible. Shields has turned the "writer writing about a writer writing" setup into something with depth, meaning and resonance without being 'over to top' in its portrayal. The same can be said for her approach in tackling the topic of feminism and the lack of acceptance that female writers can be "great writers" on par with their male counterparts. Reta's character is complex, displaying a number of contradictions and weaknesses for the reader to examine and ponder and carries an underlying tension through the story. Overall, I am very impressed with how the story captured my attention early on and held me, fascinated, through to the last word.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Enjoyed reading this over a few days.It made me think a little of the tradgedy of Ellen's short life. It made me think about writing. Reta's writing was cathartic, but not through a tell all about her circumstances, through a different lens. It me me think about writing a novel. I'm not sure I'm brave enough.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Linda Holmes, of NPR, wrote a great article in the summer, in the middle of a Franzen fracas, about why chick lit is a bad title. If you recall, Johnathan Franzen's summer release, Freedom, was the darling of all the literati. (Admission: haven't read it, have no plans to read it, even though my Google Reader is full up of fans of his books.) Maureen Johnson also wrote a much linked article about the dearth of attention to woman writers, among other things. I so wish Carol Shields had been around to add her two cents worth, since I believe she had much to say about male/female writers and their books. In fact, she wrote about it in her last published book, Unless. In 2002.Reta Winters is a forty something writer, with every reason to be happy. Except, her nineteen year old daughter has suddenly dropped out of life, and is on a quest for goodness by begging on a street corner. Reta is given lots of comparisons about why this isn't so bad, but for her, it's everything. Shields starts the book off slowly, and I certainly felt the higher level of reading than I often read, but I felt stretched, in a very good way. With an author as the main character, there is lots of navel-gazing, and Reta even references herself as navel-gazing within the book, mocking herself for being an author and writing about writing. Part of the way Reta deals with her sadness and concern over her daughter, who she believes felt marginalized in a male dominated world, is to write letters pointing out the lack of female writers referenced in articles she's read.Unless is a big story of identification told in one woman's experience. Hey, isn't that what male writer's do? But when women do it, it's called chick lit or a story for women. When men do, they are describing the life experience and get awards. The best, or rather most infuriating part of the book, is when Reta's editor decides her sequel book should be a big 'literature' book. She'll just have to switch the focus from the female character's search for goodness to the male character's search for greatness. Yes, Carol Shields goes there. Rock on sister.
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This book was a loan from a friend and I thank her for the introduction to this wonderful novelist. This is the touching story of a mother's loss. Reta is a writer with a comfortable existence that is one day shattered by the knowledge that her eldest daughter has abandoned her life to beg on a street corner.The author has a remarkable ability to describe the simple everyday activities of life, and how this can enable us to get through each day when in reality that normally stable existence is falling apart around us. As the reader you are made to feel a part of Reta's family and I was at times moved to tears whilst sharing in her difficult journey.
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I'm not sure I understand what Carol Shields is trying to say in this novel. I think it is railing against female oppression in our society; a worthy enough cause but Reta is so conventional and constrained by her suburban life that she is unable to throw aside convention to go and save her daughter, Norah, who has inexplicably taken to living on the streets of Toronto wearing a sign saying "Goodness". We ultimately find out why but I never really found out the wherefore of the book.
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