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I’ve just finished ” Unsheltered” the latest book by Barbara Kingsolver. My review is mixed. I had loved Kingsolver’s book Lacuna so had been really looking forward to her latest.
I found the conclusion of the interlaced stories Vineland 1871 and Vineland 2016 …. a bit clunky. The main character in Vineland 1871, Thatcher Greenwood – altho I love the name – a rather vague outline of a man, I did not feel his passion for science however I loved and felt the passion in everything Mary Treat the other main character in this interlaced story did and felt. Mary Treat, a self-taught naturalist who corresponded with Charles Darwin and supported herself as a science writer. Kingsolver brings Treat to life in all her impressive brilliance and delightful eccentricity. When we first see her, she’s lying on the ground next to her house observing ants. Later, she sits for hours with her finger in a Venus’ flytrap hoping to inspect its effect on human flesh.
My favourite, and would have been very happy if this had been the entire book’s storyline, the Vineland 2016 with it’s main character Willa Knox. A freelance journalist, a woman who is the rock of a family slipping down the ladder of success. This story tackles Trump’s America front on. Willa and her husband, a college professor, worked hard their entire lives but are now close enough to retirement to realize that no retirement awaits them. Upheavals in publishing and higher education have knocked their income back to starting-level salaries. “It’s like the rules don’t apply anymore,” Willa says. “Or we learned one set, and then somebody switched them out.” The absurd mess of American health insurance confounds every effort to get Willa’s father-in-law the care he needs. Her brilliant son is hobbled by more than $100,000 in student loans. And, meanwhile, her daughter has become a dumpster-diving Cassandra, convinced that modern capitalism is warming the planet toward incineration. Sound familiar?
If anyone else has read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
This is a link to the New York Times Review.
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