Barbara Kingsolver is a genius writer. Her latest Unsheltered covers two eras and her transitional story line is clean and sublime. Willa Knox and her husband can barely stay above water. He teaches a college course way below his level. She is a writer who can’t seem to get employment. Their house is crumbling. They are trying to keep his elderly father alive. Their son’s wife died and now they are raising a newborn grandson. It all sounds crazy, but that is life for so many these days. All under one roof – folks are just trying to survive, let alone think about retirement, savings, and a future. It’s strictly try to breathe – keep all balls in the air and survive…that’s the goal.
Meanwhile, Willa researches the home and hopes for a grant – maybe someone famous lived in this home. Turns out a neighbor, Mary Treat, was a scientist. Darn she did not live in this house. BUT, Thatcher Greenwood, a teacher who supported Darwin’s theories did. And he was key in an important trial. Maybe the family can get a grant exemption and help pay for repairs before the house falls down.
Kingsolver moves easily between both story lines – the past and the present and how they intersect. The characters are interesting. Her writing is lovely, and she makes one think about life…past and present. How do folks survive with multiple generations under one roof? Unsheltered is a searing commentary on life today by an author who knows her stuff and writes with authority. Kudos.