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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Unless (2002) by Carol Shields

Book Review
Unless (2002)
by Carol Shields

 I'm beginning to get a little uneasy about completing the 1001 Books project, or at least the 2006 original edition.  According to the post counter I'm still over a hundred books short, and it is unclear where those last 100 titles are going to come from.  There are half dozen from the pre 1700's period.  Under five titles from the period between 1700 and 1900.  There are maybe 30-40 title max left in the 20th century and perhaps a half dozen left from 2000-2007.  That leaves a 50 title gap.  I'm troubled.

  Stone died of breast cancer in 2003.  Unless was were last published novel, and it largely reads like a defense of Shield's own success as a writer of "domestic" fiction.  Reta Winters, her narrator, is a 44 year old writer, of work which sounds similar to what Shields herself produced, living comfortably in suburban Canada with her Doctor husband and three children.  Her life is cast into (relative) chaos when the oldest of her daughters suddenly drops out of college to become a full time beggar on the streets of Toronto.

 Winters is, to say the least, puzzled by this decision, and most of Unless consists of Winters seeking understanding while going about her day-to-day business with friends and family.  I've become reasonably enthusiastic about Shields and writers like Shields directly because of the 1001 Books project.  There is simply no way I would have delved into this vibrant contemporary world of "domestic literature" without the impetus of the project.

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