Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver. Book report #5 (2019)

Vacations makes such a lovely time to read… (books 7, 8 and 9 all read on holiday.)
 
After putting this aside after 2/3s done last month, I decided to stick it out till the end in the hopes that it would get better. It didn’t.
 
Barbara Kingsolver‘s best writing is when her characters are in the wild – forests, jungles, distant lands – and that comes out in this book, as well. The more enjoyable parts (brief as they are) are when the characters are out exploring the land around them. Otherwise, this novel is preachy and uninteresting, trying desperately to make so many political points and forgetting to make the reader care about any of the characters or situations they are in.
 
Many of the characters are so highly stereotypical they are unbelievable (and mostly unlikable), and the dialogue between them equally so. Kingsolver’s personal politics and beliefs are readily evident in her earlier works, but in ways that helped the reader understand and care about them, too. In this novel, the very characters she wants us to like and believe in – Tig, the teenage communist, or Mary Treat, the 19th century scientist, who I think you’re supposed to admire and empathize with for her limited career in a male-dominated world – you don’t like or believe in because they are tiresomely strident or ridiculously boring.
 
It might be that there is just too much going on in the world and the US for Kingsolver to pick a topic to focus on, so instead she’s taken a scatter-brush approach to chastise us all (yes, much of the text and dialogue reads like a finger-wagging admonishment of the reader) for the terrible state of the world, and produced a very long novel that goes nowhere, except to the second-hand shop.

3 – a book published in 2018
7 – a book written by a female author
19 – a book with a one-word title
26 – a book that was a gift (from Jodi)

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