by Barbara Kingsolver, Allen & Unwin
If you’ve ever picked up a book by this celebrated author, you will know you’re in for a read that addresses the social and political issues affecting us all, particularly environmental. In her ninth novel, the writer interweaves timelines of two families living in a crumbling house in New Jersey. In 2016, unemployed writer Willa Knox is having a tough time of it. Her academic husband Iano has recently lost college tenure, they’re looking after his obese, right-wing father, their free-spirited daughter has moved back after a failed love affair, and she’s taken in her infant grandson. In a parallel narrative, 150 years earlier, science teacher Thatcher Greenwood and his bride Rose have recently moved to his wife’s childhood home. The newlyweds have issues too. Thatcher’s job is in jeopardy and he has also come to realise that, much like the foundation-less home he now lives in, a marriage based on physical attraction is destined to fall apart without some serious work. Central to both Willa and Thatcher is the importance of shelter, and how in times of unrest we cling to the beliefs and people most familiar to us. As one of the characters in the book says, “We hold onto our old world views, even when they no longer serve us and we overlook a lot of things to find reason.” This story will make you question the power and reach of the privileged few, and contemplate what’s ahead for the rest of us.