Review: Unless – Carol Shields

Read: 3
To Go: 97

Book List
1. Happy Ever After – Nora Roberts
2. The Bone Cage – Angie Abdou
3. Unless – Carol Shields

I intended to take a break between The Bone Cage and my next novel, Unless by Carol Shields, but I decided against it since I was returning to school soonish and didn’t want to have it sitting while I started class.

Unless is the story of Reta Winters, a middle aged married woman, who’s a mother of three girls – Norah, Christine, and Natalie. Prior to the book’s opening, Norah Winters, Reta’s oldest daughter, went missing for a week and turned up on the corner of Bloor and Bathurst St. in Toronto, living as a vagabond, begging for change, with a sign around her neck reading “GOODNESS.” She would not move, she would not go home or return to university, and she had been living that way for months. This forces Reta to come to her own conclusions about what “GOODNESS” means, and, as a result, learns a little more about the gendered world.

The novel was a slightly longer read – both in actual length (there are more pages than TBC, and they are wider) and in the time it took me to read them; it wasn’t really a page turner. Reta’s first-person narration was quirky and funny in the way that she herself never intended to be humorous (though the author obviously did), which I enjoyed. As a writer, I enjoyed reading Reta’s musings and thoughts regarding her novels; it was incredibly relatable, and also hilarious because it offered insight into how self-involved writers can be – so obsessed with the next project, living in their head, where their characters reside, instead of in the present.

I must admit, I was really disappointed when I came to understand Norah’s predicament. When I read the blurb on the back of the novel I was led to believe that Norah had been kidnapped and literally muted, and forced into a vagabond lifestyle, which would then become a sort of mystery, and a page-turning thriller to see how Reta could rescue her from the kidnapper’s clutches.

It was not.

However, Unless was a good read; it just wasn’t something that really, really impressed me. I’d recommend it because it’s enjoyable, but don’t expect it to blow your mind. It didn’t blow mine.

Next book: No Rules…Just Write by C. Noelle Susice.

– Kelsey

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