Fourty-four year old Reta Winters has three children, a loving husband, and a successful career as a writer of light fiction. Her life is comfortable, normal - and so she suffers a terrible shock when she discovers that her eldest daughter, Norah, has dropped out of university to sit on a streetcorner, a begging bowl in her lap and a cardboard sign that reads only 'GOODNESS' strung around her neck. Norah gives no explanation to her family, refuses to speak with them or to come home. 'Unless' follows Reta's struggle to understand what has caused her to withdraw from the world, as she attempts to continue on with her own life.
This is a lovely novel. It moves very slowly, but is written with exquisite grace and skill. Reta is utterly believable as a character; her meditations on life are not, as some reviewers on this page have claimed, 'dull' or 'trite', but poetic, insightful, moving. Her sadness is tangible, and poignant - handled very well by Shields, who can lift the smallest details of life to almost spiritual heights. Her writing has a certain modesty, a frankness and integrity to it that is delightful, refreshing. 'Unless' is appealing because, like Norah, it asks nothing of itself - and it gives the reader all in return. Wonderful.
Could not put this book down, loved it. The author has great style. Now one of my favorties. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Fascinating story. A quiet read. Enjoyed reading about women who write.
Nice contemporary fiction. Deals with the heartfelt emotions of motherhood.
What do we do when the children we reared and thought we knew become someone indecipherable and unreachable?