Monday, December 2, 2019

Audiobook review: Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver book cover and review
Unsheltered left me with mixed feelings. The story wasn't much, but the writing, well, if you've never read Kingsolver you won't understand how enamored I am with her writing.

So, yes, I'll always pick up a book written by Kingsolver. Unsheltered follows two timelines of people who live in the same house. The first point-of-view is Willa in 2016. She lives in an old Victorian house with her husband and adult daughter. The house is literally falling down, and as the story progresses, they are confined to less and less space.

Willa is trying to get the house designated as historic, so she can get some grants to help fix it up. There is much soul searching, as she reflects on the past and how hard they have worked and still don't even have enough money to make basic repairs to the house. The stories of her two children are integral to the plot as well. Her daughter is appalled at the damage that our civilization has done, and continues to do, to the earth. Her son is mourning the loss of his wife and has left his newborn son with Willa.

As Willa is researching the historical significance of the house, she discovers (eventually) that Thatcher Greenwood, a local science teacher, may have lived in her house in the1870s. Part of the reason he is significant is because of his relationship with a renowned woman scientist, Mary Treat, who lived next door. Thatcher's house is also in disrepair, and he also doesn't have enough money to fix it. It is just as well, because his desire to teach about Darwin's theories will most likely be the end of his employment by the local conservative school.

Kingsovler does a good job switching the narration and building a connection between these two eras. Her command of prose just mesmerized me. She narrates Unsheltered herself and this is the second book I've listened to that she has narrated. I wouldn't say she's a great narrator. She's not very good at male voices--some of them just sound drunk. But I appreciate her doing it. I feel like the author alone knows the proper emphasis and emotion she wants to convey. A couple of times I think she got a little choked up.

All in all, Unsheltered is my least favorite of her offerings. I could recommend just about any other of her books before this one, but if you are a Kingsolver fan, be sure to include this in your list.

Published by Harper, 2018
Audiobook obtained from
480 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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  1. I liked this book more than most people who have reviewed it, but I agree that Kingsolver isn't the best reader and should have someone else read her books. Her writing is so, so good. I will always read her books.

  2. I used to be a huge Kingsolver fan. I LOVED Pigs in Heaven, Animal Dreams, Bean Trees, and Prodigal Summer. But, ever since the Poisonwood Bible the books haven't connected with me as much. This probably says more about me than about her.

    1. I think The Lacuna is my favorite, although I loved Poisonwood and Flight Behavior too.


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