Saturday, September 06, 2008


I usually enjoy Canadian writer Carol Shields writing. I highly recommend Larry's Party and The Stone Diaries. While Unless: A Novel (P.S.) is a well written story, I just didn't get into it. I felt so removed from the characters.

The main character, Reta Winters narrates the story. Reta is a 44 year old translator, writer, wife and mother. Her oldest daughter drops out of college and society. She lives in a shelter and spends her days holding a sign saying "Goodness" on a Toronto street corner. The family does not know why. They can't convince her to come home. Well, actually no one does try to bring her home. They let her be and bring her food and clothes. (Enabling? IMHO yes.)

Reta tries to understand her daughter's action through the filter of feminism and the struggles women have had to gain equality. As a writer, she is particulary concerned with the omission of women's work in the canon of great literature. I found the subject worth my interest and the writing was perceptive, yet I wanted Reta and her husband Tom to do more. Reta shares a lot inner dialog on her inner anger due to life in a man's world. I wanted her to express this. Don't stew. Tell your husband, mail those letters you're composing and never mailing, do something.

I do love Shields' writing, but I can't recommend Unless.

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