A Novel

Book - 2018
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New York Times bestseller

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.

How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? Willa Knox and her husband followed all the rules as responsible parents and professionals, and have nothing to show for it but debts and an inherited brick house that is falling apart. The magazine where Willa worked has folded; the college where her husband had tenure has closed. Their dubious shelter is also the only option for a disabled father-in-law and an exasperating, free-spirited daughter. When the family's one success story, an Ivy-educated son, is uprooted by tragedy he seems likely to join them, with dark complications of his own.

In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it? A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood finds himself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town's powerful men.

Unsheltered is the compulsively readable story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey, navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it. With history as their tantalizing canvas, these characters paint a startlingly relevant portrait of life in precarious times when the foundations of the past have failed to prepare us for the future.

Publisher: New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780062684561
Branch Call Number: KINGSOLV
Characteristics: 464 pages ; 24 cm


Featured Blogs and Events

An Eloquent And Provocative New Barbara Kingsolver Novel

Unsheltered is more than the title of Barbara Kingsolver's new book; it is the thoughtful overarching metaphor which connects the characters from two distinct time frames in one place. Kingsolver juxtaposes turmoil from today and the past, and yet wit and resilience are found throughout each storyline via gripping dialogue between the characters—their struggles and solace is found in vivid… (more)

From Library Staff

Set in the Pine Barren region of New Jersey, Kingsolver's newest novel features parallel narratives juxtaposing society's turmoil from today with the past. Real-life naturalist Mary Treat is among the most charismatic and intriguing characters. There is wit and resilience expressed in gripping di... Read More »

Unsheltered features alternating chapters of 19th and 21st century stories both set in New Jersey's Pine Barren region. Anthill by E.O. Wilson is a similarly thought-provoking and richly detailed novel which echoes reverence for the natural world of rural Alabama & Florida.

LPL_ShirleyB Sep 19, 2018

Kingsolver’s new novel is complex juxtaposing parallel stories of the social turmoil we’re experiencing today with 19th century religious challenges to science and evolution. Wit and resilience are expressed in gripping dialogue between the characters—their struggles and solace found in vivid con... Read More »

From the critics

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Carrie_library Jan 08, 2019

Amazing! A must read for all in these uncertain times, offering differing perspectives on this quickly changing world.

mko123 Jan 07, 2019

Two tumbling down houses in the small town of Vineland, NJ,one hundred years apart but both inhabited by well-intended people, trying to do the right thing to secure a home for their families. Many forces are working against both households, including economic instability and colliding belief systems. Both households are also connected by the life of Mary treat, self taught biologist who corresponded with Charles Darwin. This book gives you lots to ponder as you watch families from 100 years ago deal with the same issues we struggle with right now. Kingsolvers characters find no easy solution, but they do find solace in the natural world.

TechLibrarian Jan 07, 2019

Barbara Kingsolver is like the comfort food of books to me, especially her audiobooks, which she reads herself. (Her voice is sing-songy, with a southern accent.) While I was looking to escape from reality, this book kind of holds up a mirror. The main character is struggling with grief, tough finances, and an irreparable old home. An obnoxious political figure looms large, and one of the main character's family members is xenophobic and infuriatingly short on values. Yet, there is a second wing of the plot about an overlooked female scientist from the 1800s, based on a true story, which held my attention a bit more. Here, Kingsolver displays her characteristic penchant for botany and science. So, while this book was not exactly what I was expecting, it did deliver. The way that Kingsolver described so aptly some feelings about current events made this read a bit like talking with an old friend. It wouldn’t be the first Kingsolver I’d recommend, but it was still a pretty good read/listen.

Jan 02, 2019

I am a huge fan of Barbara Kindsolver. Sad to say though this is not her best book. It feels a bit heavy and a bit preachy, with little of the freedom of earlier work like "Animal Dreams" or "Pigs in Heaven" or the skill in the later "Prodigal Summer". Still, not every book can be great. Definitely worth the read, and I'll be waiting for the next one from this great author.

Dec 21, 2018

Great book for a book club discussion. Very likeable characters, and a serious discussion of the effects of global warming, the increasing concentration of wealth within the upper 1%, ecology, biology, parenting. Also some interesting discussions of Cuba. I really liked this book and highly recommend it

TSCPL_Miranda Dec 19, 2018

I love Barbara Kingsolver, and eagerly await the release of each new book. I really enjoyed Unsheltered, though I have to admit that I didn't love it as much as her previous novels. The story takes place in alternating timelines, and the past timeline dragged a bit for me. I found myself skimming, trying to get back to the present day story. I also found it a little heavy handed with the politics, rather than Kingsolver's usual skill with letting readers come to their own conclusions. All that said, I'm sure I'll read it again, and maybe I'll even enjoy it more on second reading.

Dec 17, 2018

In 2016 Willa Knox has just moved with her husband, his ailing father, her daughter and her son's newborn into a falling down house in Vineland New Jersey. In the 1870s Thatcher Greenwood has just moved to Vineland into another falling down house with his new wife, her mother and her young sister. Both are finding themselves battling against the new scientific ideas of their times, family problems and serious financial straits. In both engrossing stories the characters' houses are similes for the crumbling of old ideas in their time periods. While people struggle to "stand in the light of day, unsheltered..." by old ideas they also stuggle not to be literally unsheltered. How well they succeed you'll need to judge for yourself. Vineland, New Jersey and naturalist Mary Treat are real, as isa certain presidential candidate in 2016, and add to the verisimilitude of the story. Highly recommended.

Nov 21, 2018

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.

Nov 18, 2018

The social upheaval resulting from the scientific demonstration of evolution is juxtaposed in this novel with the current denial of the evidence that the damage we have done to our planet, through global warming, has been set in motion and will continue due to our inability to stop consuming and polluting. The link between the two phenomenon is a house that is falling down where the two families who are struggling with these issues reside separated by a century. The author's superlative skill and insight patiently lead us through a series of clearly laid out circumstances to the point where we see ourselves, and it's not pretty. We persist in our destruction of the earth while being distracted by the transient, all be it abhorrent, misuse of power in our society exemplified by the great wealth of such a small segment of our population and the ridiculous machinations of the leaders of our government. Despite the ugly revelation, she gives us hope for the future in the wisdom of the coming shift in demographics and the awareness of the results of our greedy, entitled behavior that is developing in the generations to come. This is one of the most important books of the 21st century thus far because it provides us with the truth in the way that only fiction can.

Nov 06, 2018

Kingsolver addresses multiple social issues, as she has in her other novels, but keeps them from weighing down the plot too much. The many characters and their relationships only sometimes become cliches, and her writing is as beautiful as always.

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