A new novel from Carol Shields, author of The Stone Diaries (winner of the Pulitzer prize) and Larry's Party (winner of the Orange prize). All her life, it seems to Reta Winters, she has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness. She has a loving husband, three bright daughters and supportive friends, and is experiencing growing success as a ...
A new novel from Carol Shields, author of The Stone Diaries (winner of the Pulitzer prize) and Larry's Party (winner of the Orange prize). All her life, it seems to Reta Winters, she has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness. She has a loving husband, three bright daughters and supportive friends, and is experiencing growing success as a writer and translator. Then her eldest daughter suddenly withdraws from the world, abandoning university, family and loving boyfriend to sit on a street corner, uncommunicative but for a sign around her neck bearing one word, 'GOODNESS'. The anguish of her loss leads Reta into a desperate search for the causes of her daughter's retreat. No obvious explanation appears to fit. As Reta casts her net ever wider her enquiry turns into an unflinching, often very funny examination of our society and the reasons a young woman might conclude it has no place for her. Warmth, passion and wisdom come together in this journey through the life of an unforgettable woman. Shields' remarkably supple prose yields insights and images of transcendent beauty and acuity from the stuff of small-town life. At once the discomfiting, ultimately consoling story of one family's loss and a searing portrait of life at the dawn of the twenty-first century, UNLESS is a dazzling and daring novel from the undisputed master of extraordinary fictions about so-called 'ordinary' lives.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-04-29 If I have any reputation at all it is for being an editor and scholar, and not for producing, to everyone's amazement, a fresh, bright, springtime piece of fiction,' or so it was described in Publishers Weekly. That cheeky self-description sums up the protagonist of Shields's latest, the precocious, compassionate and feisty Reta Winters, an accomplished author who suddenly finds her literary success meaningless when the oldest of her three daughters, Norah, drops out of college to live on the streets of Toronto with a placard labeled Goodness hung around her neck. Shields takes an elliptical approach to Winters's dilemma, slowly exploring the possible reasons why a bright, attractive young woman would simply give up and drop out. As Shields makes her way through Winters's literary career, her marriage and the difficulties she and her daughter face in being taken seriously as women in the modern era, she employs an ingenious conceit by tracking Winters's emotions as she tries to write a sequel to her light romantic novel while helping a fellow writer, a Holocaust survivor, work on her memoirs. As Norah's plight deepens and the nature of her decision begins to surface, the romantic novel turns dark and serious, and Winters faces a rewrite when her long-time editor dies and his pedantic successor tries to introduce a sexist plot twist. Reta Winters is a marvelously inventive character whose thought-provoking commentary on the ties between writing, love, art and family are constantly compelling in this unabashedly feminist novel. The icing on the cake is the ending, which introduces a startling but believable twist to the plight of a young woman who, in doing nothing... has claimed everything. The result is a landmark book that constitutes yet another noteworthy addition to Shields's impressive body of work. (May) FYI: As revealed in an April 14 profile in the New York Times magazine, Shields, who has terminal breast cancer, believes this will be her last novel. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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