Library Journal Review
Multi-award-winning Kingsolver's eighth novel (after Flight Behavior) tells two stories in alternating chapters, both taking place on the same residential lot in Vineland, NJ, but roughly 150 years apart. In the 1870s, science teacher Thatcher struggles with meeting the expectations of his socially ambitious wife while running afoul of school and city morality for teaching Darwinism and develops a connection with his next-door neighbor, naturalist Mary Treat. In the present day, journalist Willa tries to hold her family together, four generations of which are living in a house that is literally falling down around them, as they struggle with medical bills, tragedy, and long-buried conflict. In the historical story (Thatcher and his family are fictional, but other characters and plot elements are based on real people and events), Kingsolver finds parallels to our current political climate without being heavy-handed, conveying the frustration and despair of members of the professional middle class, who "did all the right things" but feel they are losing ground. VERDICT Kingsolver fans will find everything they want and expect here: compelling characters, social awareness, and a connection to the natural world. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/18.]-Christine -DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Kingsolver's meticulously observed, elegantly structured novel unites social commentary with gripping storytelling. Its two intertwined narratives are set in Vineland, a real New Jersey town built as a utopian community in the 1860s. In the first storyline, set in the present, the magazine Willa Knox edited and the college at which her husband, Iano Tavoularis, taught both fold at the same time. They find themselves responsible for Iano's ailing father and their single son's new baby. They hope the house they have inherited in Vineland will help rebuild their finances, but-riddled with structural problems too costly to repair-it slowly collapses around them. Destitute after decades of striving and stunned by the racist presidential candidate upending America's ideals, the couple feels bewildered by the future facing them. Researching the home's past in the hopes of finding grant-worthy historical significance, Willa becomes fascinated by science teacher Thatcher Greenwood and his neighbor, naturalist Mary Treat, one of whom may have lived on the property in the 1870s. In the second story line, which alternates with Willa's, Thatcher's home is unsound and irreparable, too. His deepening bond with Mary inspires him, but his support for radical ideas like those of Mary's correspondent Charles Darwin infuriates Vineland's repressive leadership, threatening Thatcher's job and marriage. Kingsolver (Flight Behavior) artfully interweaves fictional and historical figures (notably the remarkable Mary Treat) and gives each narrative its own mood and voice without compromising their underlying unity. Containing both a rich story and a provocative depiction of times that shake the shelter of familiar beliefs, this novel shows Kingsolver at the top of her game. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.