In 2016, 50-year-old Willa Knox never thought she would be barely scraping by. She had been a successful journalist and her husband a tenured college professor. Now, they have both lost their jobs and have been forced to relocate to an inherited house in Vineland, NJ where they work at part time jobs while caring for an ailing father-in-law, their activist daughter and the baby of their son, whose wife has died. With no money to repair their house, which is literally falling down around them, Willa decides to research the house’s history in hopes of obtaining a grant from the local historical society. In the 1870s, Vineland was a real-life Utopian community founded by developer, Charles Landis. A young teacher, Thatcher Greenwood, lived in her house along with numerous relatives. At this point, the novel splits into two parallel narratives with riveting coincidences and insightful commentary on human nature and the dangers inherent in not accepting change in times of upheaval.
In Vineland in the 1870s, Thatcher Greenwood, put off by the social climbing ways of his wife and the Utopian dogma of John Landis, befriends his next-door neighbor, Mary Treat. Mary (a real person) is a biologist and frequent correspondent with Charles Darwin. When Thatcher attempts to teach Darwinism in his classroom, he is threatened with the termination of his contract. Two conflicting newspapers take sides in the debate with disastrous results when the anti-Darwin Charles Landis tries to silence the “fake news”.
As in her previous novels, Kingsolver weaves environmental, societal and political themes in with astute observations of the daily existences of her fully realized characters who love, hate and worry with both anguish and satirical humor. Rich in historical detail with vivid dialogue and wonderful storytelling, Unsheltered is ultimately an optimistic look at how individuals and families can survive in the face of turmoil and uncertainty.— Robin Harvey
November 2018 Indie Next List
“A brilliant novel set in two different centuries, eras when lies trumped truth and superstition overruled science. Kingsolver illustrates human resiliency with insight, humor, and compassion in this deeply satisfying novel. While showing the cost of leadership built on false promises and lies, it also illustrates the strength of the human spirit with characters who will not be broken by their times. Kingsolver’scharacters, including historical figures Mary Treat and Charles Landis, shine as they make their way through the maze of survival set before them. Great reading.”
— Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver, OR