Barbara Kingsolver stands at the head of my hero list. Her writing from Flight Behavior to the Poisonwood Bible inspired me to write about families, nature, and love. I eagerly anticipated her new novel Unsheltered.
I hate to say it, but I must. The book disappointed me. The author took a risk by creating some unlikable characters from the invalid and grumpy father-in-law, selfish grown children, and a protagonist who appears weak and cowardly. Her husband comes in highest on the likability scale, but he also has serious flaws.
The story addresses the economy after the fall in 2007 and the hardships that befall a professor and his writer wife. I found it hard to believe that this couple found themselves in such dire straits. When their son leaves his infant with them, I wanted to scream because no one ever confronted the young man about his responsibility or lack of it. But they all sit in their intellectual superiority at the dinner table and argue political history, economics, and current affairs.
There were times when I felt that Ms. Kingsolver simply wanted to dump all her knowledge about geography and economics on the reader. A beginning writer makes this mistake, but an accomplished author should know better. I felt that parts of the novel were simply places for info dumps.
I had another major issue with this book. I’m in simpatico with the author’s politics, but I don’t read her novels to learn about her leanings. I can turn on the news for that. I want to be entertained and carried away by the story, not dumped right down in the middle of what I already know is happening on a daily basis in this country. It surprised me to settle down into the story to only be knocked on the head with her views on the president and his party. I can read all about that in the plethora of nonfiction books glutting the market today.
Kingsolver had something to say. She said it. I only hope the next time she wants to pontificate on the reality of our world today, she’ll do it in her nonfiction and get back to the storytelling she does so very well. But perhaps she’s distracted. I heard she’s writing the script for The Poisonwood Bible for HBO, which is being produced by Amy Adams. Now that should be entertaining.