Unsheltered | Barbara Kingsolver

One sentence: 

A good story, but not as good as I expected from Kingsolver.

Three thoughts:

  • Flight Behavior was the first book I read by Barbara Kingsolver, and it blew me away. I think I’ll always compare her other books to that one, and I’m afraid they’re all going to be disappointing as a result.
  • I REALLY LIKED the parts of this book that I actually liked. I thought about quitting a few times, but the fact that I liked certain parts kept me going.
  • At times, I felt like reading this book was like attending a lecture.


  • Characters: 2/5. It’s hard for me sometimes to ‘rate’ a character if it’s someone I greatly dislike, and that was the case with a lot of these characters. I have to work hard to judge how well developed and well written the character is. In this case, though, the unlikeable characters just weren’t that great in any aspect. Nick was a total asshole and I understand that he was an intentional antagonist but was there really any point to his racist diatribes? Zeke was shitty in multiple ways and I just genuinely hated him by the end of the book. And I really disliked how Willa constantly defended him. In the other timeline, Thatcher was obviously The Good Guy and I don’t know, everyone just seemed like a stereotype.
  • Plot: 3/5. I like the parallel storylines—the houses falling down, the “Darwin vs. decency” and Tig’s crusade to save the planet, etc. I like all of those things; I just don’t think most of them were presented very well in the story. Tig was exhausting and stressed me out, and every time Thatcher talked I felt like I was being lectured. There was waaaay too much science from Mary Treat (I get it, she’s a scientist, but like, I don’t need to hear the details of mating rituals of random bugs). I don’t know. The ideas were all good, but it felt poorly executed.
  • Setting: 4/5. A real life town! Real life people! I love that stuff and I totally Google Mapped the town to see where the people lived. I liked the houses slowly crumbling around them, and I liked the descriptions of real life ecosystems that I don’t know anything about (like the Pine Barrens).
  • Style/Voice: 3/5. Usually Kingsolver’s writing is magical. I can’t help but compare this—dry, often boring, often overdone. This one had its moments but there weren’t many.
  • Theme: 3/5. I read an article that described this book as “liberal pabulum,” and I concur. I don’t know. Kingsolver is right about SO MANY THINGS and I wanted to love it for those things and because people like Tig and Thatcher and Mary Treat were right… but it was hard. The ideas were all there, but it just wasn’t done well.

Overall Rating: 3.0/5.0

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