“Unless you’re lucky, unless you’re healthy, fertile, unless you’re loved and fed, unless you’re offered what others are offered, you go down in the darkness, down to despair.”
Reta Winters has many reasons to be happy: Her three almost grown daughters. Her twenty-year relationship with their father. Her work translating the larger-than-life French intellectual and feminist Danielle Westerman. Her modest success with a novel of her own, and the clamour of her American publisher for a sequel. Then in the spring of her forty-fourth year, all the quiet satisfactions of her well-lived life disappear in a moment: her eldest daughter Norah suddenly runs from the family and ends up mute and begging on a Toronto street corner, with a hand-lettered sign reading GOODNESS around her neck.
GOODNESS. With the inconceivable loss of her daughter like a lump in her throat, Reta tackles the mystery of this message. What in this world has broken Norah, and what could bring her back to the provisional safety of home? Reta’s wit is the weapon she most often brandishes as she kicks against the pricks that have brought her daughter down: Carol Shields brings us Reta’s voice in all its poignancy, outrage and droll humour.
Piercing and sad, astute and evocative, full of tenderness and laughter, Unless will stand with The Stone Diaries in the canon of Carol Shields’s fiction.
So, yeah, this really isn’t going to be a review. Why, you ask? Because I abandoned Unless about 50 pages in. I tried a couple of times to read it, but in the end I knew it wasn’t my cup of tea. The story wasn’t appealing to me and neither were the main character or writing style.
The writing is rather flowery and lyrical, a style that I just don’t enjoy. I guess I’m more of a Plain Jane when it comes to the writing I prefer. This isn’t a critique of the book; rather it’s just a case of it being an ill fit for me.
I’ve heard from other bloggers that they started to enjoy the book further in, but I’m not the kind of reader to wade through 100 pages until I hit the parts that I will like. On the other hand, I know bloggers that LOVED this book.
With that being said, I can’t really say if I think it’s worthy of being on Canada Reads panel, but I’m going to bring forth my trusting Canadian nature and assume because Unless was chosen to be on the panel, it deserves to be on the panel.