Unless

  • by Carol Shields
  • Narrated by Joan Allen
  • 7 hrs and 13 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

For all of her days, Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light fiction novels "for summertime". This placid existence cracks open one fearful day when her beloved oldest daughter, Norah, drops out of life to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads "GOODNESS". Reta's search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope. Warmth, passion, and wisdom come together in Carol Shields' remarkably supple prose. Unless, a harrowing but ultimately consoling story of one family's anguish and healing, proves her mastery of extraordinary fictions about ordinary life.

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What the Critics Say

"A landmark book that constitutes yet another noteworthy addition to Shields's impressive body of work." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Production issues

Decidedly, I am a fan of Carol Shields. This novel even has a bonus layer, a view into the protagonist's life as a writer and her process which I found illuminating.

But unfortunately I can only give three stars because of production issues. While Shields' precise and descriptive grasp of the moment and development of images never fail to deliver, the narration in "Unless" is uneven, starting out crisp and clear at each chapter's beginning and then fading away as the section progresses. I found myself having to constantly adjust the volume on long commutes. Additionally the narrator's voice seemed occluded, as though she'd swallowed a frog.

And then there is the issue of the background music which I thought was intrusive. I sometimes fall asleep during a listen - no, not while driving, although I did take a wrong exit once - and the too-loud piano interludes kept jolting me awake and ruining my nap!

So, to conclude, excellent book, mediocre listen.
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- Pamela Harvey

Very enjoyable

This was a very gentle book with an underlying sadness over the choices of the oldest daughter. The unfailing love of her parents and sisters allows her to return in the end.
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- Kathleen McDonald

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-25-2007
  • Publisher: HarperAudio