Unless

Unless

A Novel

Book - 2002
Average Rating:
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I'm not interested, the way some people are, in being sad. I've had a look, and there's nothing down that road. Well now! What about the ripping sound behind my eyes, the starchy tearing of fabric, end to end; what about the need I have to curl up my knees when I sleep?

For all of her life, 44 year old Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light 'summertime' fiction. But this placid existence is cracked wide open when her beloved eldest daughter, Norah, drops out to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads 'GOODNESS.' Reta's search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope.

Warmth, passion and wisdom come together in Shields' remarkably supple prose. Unless, a harrowing but ultimately consoling story of one family's anguish and healing, proves her mastery of extraordinary fictions about ordinary life.

Publisher: New York : Fourth Estate, 2002.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780007141074
0007141076
Branch Call Number: FICTION Shields Carol 2002
Characteristics: 213 p. ;,24 cm.

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WVMLStaffPicks Dec 23, 2014

A feminist writer, living her well-off life with a physician husband and three lovely daughters, comes up against tragedy. Inexplicably, her eldest daughter opts out of university, her relationship and her family to sit on a street corner in downtown Toronto with a sign around her neck that reads GOODNESS. This is a profound, appealing and witty story, not anguished and depressing as the plot might suggest. The fast-paced narrative is interspersed with letters, never mailed, that rail against the marginalized status of women in the world. I say this is her best novel yet.

e
Eosos
Oct 23, 2014

I always feel a twinge of regret when I rate such a well written book so low. That may actually say something bad about the quality of the books I typically read and enjoy?

With a book written such as this one I think it would be necessary to have empathy or something in common with the main character and I felt I had neither. A story about a mother and wife, about her thoughts on life and her husband and her grown daughters, who writes and translates and is a good doctor's wife, gave me nothing to appreciate. I just did not understand her life or her thoughts or her worries. Leaving me unappreciative of the story and bored with the book in general.

r
remigia
Sep 12, 2014

Home library

a
anivison
Mar 11, 2014

This is a novel I picked up to "read more female Canadian authors".

Although I finished this years ago, I think of it still, like no other book.

NORAH ROBB Jan 16, 2013

I had read many of Carol Shields' novels before reading "Unless". But was totally unprepared for how this particular novel resonated with me. Perhaps it was in part because I knew it was her last novel, perhaps because I have a young daughter, perhaps because my name is Norah. I have since reread it a number of times and will no doubt do so again. The very first paragraph captivated me, moved me to tears, as it does each time I read it. I was almost desperate to keep reading but unable to move beyond that first paragraph before I felt I completely understood the depth of the character's situation.

BugLady1 Sep 13, 2011

Difficult at first to get into. But once I got started, I wanted to know more and more. Clever, quirky characters intertwined together yet seperate. Ending was somewhat of a letdown, as I wanted to know more about the daughter, but liked the surprises of how other aspects tied together. Overall a good read.

m
macierules
Feb 10, 2011

Not the easiest book to read but definitely worth the effort. I connected so strongly with the characters, and the story evoked in me an overwhelming sense of loss. Amazing writing!

mayfairlady Feb 09, 2011

in the last three for Canada Reads 2011.
The writing is wonderful.

abird Oct 18, 2010

This book has made the Top 40 list of the 2011 CBC Canada Reads pick!

pscho Mar 04, 2007

Not sure if I really got all of the levels of this book, although I definitely enjoyed reading it. Male characters were almost absent. As a parent some aspects were very disturbing. I have enjoyed other Carol Shields books more.

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