Back in November, too early for holiday gifts, a package arrived containing a book: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. No note included. I thought my mom — a Kingsolver fan — may have ordered it, but no. Was it sent by mistake? Nope. My husband uncovered the mystery. “My colleague sent it. He read Boy on Hold and it reminded him of this book by Kingsolver.”
Stop. the. press. Caught in a moment of greatness, I was speechless. One of my very favorite authors, Kingsolver is a genius at tackling big world issues in an articulate and moving way. Back as a student teacher, I taught Poisonwood Bible — allowing me to study the imperialism of Republic of Congo, while dissecting each conflict and character down to the nub, leaving me scraped raw and vulnerable and brimming with emotions I didn’t realize I had. That book remains one of my favorite books of all time.
To be considered alongside Barbara Kingsolver in any capacity is a huge honor. I mean, *my book* reminded him of one by the great and brilliant BARBARA KINGSOLVER?!?
How it got into the hands of my husband’s colleague is a compliment in itself. Turns out, BOH was recommended to said colleague’s daughter — a psychology student at NYU — by her professor. (Let me say that again.) An NYU psychology professor recommended Boy on Hold to one of his/her students. *pinch me* So, BOH made its rounds in the family, which led to the Kingsolver gift…
Such an overwhelming compliment, it was a bit intimidating to read Unsheltered. But of course, I did. And it certainly held up.
The book’s logline sets the tone and could very well apply to Marcella Trout in BOH: How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute?
Alternating time periods between current day and post-Civil War era, Kingsolver layers climate change and environmental issues of today with the evolution controversy of Charles Darwin. Kingsolver’s smart prose certainly made me think. I’m grateful for the introduction to Mary Treat, the 19C biologist “whose work deserves to be better known.” Kingsolver deftly wove in strange but true events such as Treat’s feeding her own fingertip to her Venus flytrap as an experiment. As the story turns more serious, though, it made me appreciate those who take a stand on a large or small scale — even if it comes at great cost with no reward. It also made me rethink the value of “stuff” in general, as also eloquently put in this article my friend pointed out to me today.
All in all, the message rings clear: Rather than fight change and for a life we think we deserve, find creative ways to adapt and be open to happiness that waits for you there.
An Unsheltered excerpt that’s stayed with me:
…when God slams the door on you…you’re going to end up in rubble…you won’t find your way out of the mess if you keep picking up bricks and stuffing them in your pockets. What you have to do is look for blue sky.
A message Marcella Trout should absolutely consider as her world turns upside down and she finds herself “in the rubble” at the end of BOH.
I want to hear from you:
Have you ever had to adapt to a new normal? How did you find blue sky?