coloured cover, though both are overindulgent & misleading because this story is NOT about Norah - the daughter who ends up begging on a Toronto street corner with a hand-lettered sign that reads GOODNESS - it's about her mother, Reta. I also wish Shields were still alive to write that novel, Norah.
"The Canadian writer Alice Munro once likened a good short story to a commodious house whose every room possesses an exterior door. So accommodating a house, she wrote, is capable of admitting visitors through any number of openings,..."
In the pages of Shields' Unless, however, what I found could be summarized as rooms with exterior doors slamming shut rather than opening to admit visitors. I almost felt as though Shields was closing those doors onto herself as she faced death.
I expected this novel to be Shields' best yet, her swan song, but unfortunately it just didn't measure up. Yes, the prose was beautifully written and I often found myself admiring a passage or nodding along in agreement, but it lacked depth, richness of plot and unfortunately I found myself somewhat bored in several parts.
My main criticism of the book actually is directed at the editor or lack of editing. I believe Carol Shields may have been dying, and I'm left wondering whether there even was an editor??
The job of an editor is to work closely with the author and/or literary agent to ensure the novel is a strong as it can be. This "may mean changing major story arcs" as well as proofreading for correct grammar and style. And therein lies the problem, the story arc. For example, I've read countless reviews saying that readers couldn't get past the first 50 pages. And that's not because Carol Shields isn't a great writer, it's because amongst many other poor editorial choices, the first chapter could have consisted of an introduction limited to paragraph one. The story BEGAN in chapter two.
"With 60 pages of skimpy text behind me, I could not get passed the sin of wasting any more time on the rest."
M. H. Gaboury, aka beauregard
I agree with more than one amazon.com review I read:
"If you haven't read Shields before, do yourself a favour and read "Stone Diaries" or "Larry's Party" before you pick up this one."
Ahhhhhhh...how I wish Carol could give us a revised edition!! I still treasure your other novels, especially Larry's Party. And I will always admire those nuggets of pure heavenly writing you inspired me with.
Rest in peace,