Unsheltered – by Barbara Kingsolver

For me, this was a life changing novel. It has deepened my understanding of the thinking about why some people think how they do and what motivates them to do so.

As an unabashed devotee of the Great American Novel I was eager to read the latest book by Barbara Kingsolver which promised to deliver on her earlier portrayals of an unravelling set of characters beset by existential threats and other more mundane ones. Quite simply, I enjoyed the different layers of this novel. On one level it is a story about some liberal, educated folk who have fallen on hard times, chronicling how they deal with birth and death. On another, it tackles the conundrums posed by rational scientific discovery when pitted against belief.

There is a further modern day political polemic discussion surrounding the rise and popularity of the current occupant of the White House which may, in time, date the popularity and relevance of this novel but for me made it especially enthralling as it attempts to address the question of why people find ‘the Bullhorn’ (Trump) acceptable. Trump has indeed engaged me in the machinations of American politics and I think this is because of the life lessons his saga has given me. However, he is but a minor subplot!

The story enfolds along two parallel narratives which I found myself ripped between. The first is set in modern day academic daily life and the other in correspondence with Darwin, scientific enquiry and the social morays of the time. The binding themes between the two narratives are the environment and our attitudes towards it and it is these themes that drive me to recommend it to you.

Rebecca McFarlane

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