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Unless by Carol Shields

Readers Recommend

Posted 1.13.12

“I found Carol Shields’s Unless (Fourth Estate, 2002) at our local Friends of the Library used-book sale fund-raiser. I recognized Shields as the author of a novel I had really enjoyed back in the early nineties—The Stone Diaries (Viking, 1993). I knew anything written by her would be a treasure and I was not disappointed. A rush of storytelling, like a wave crashing upon an empty beach at dawn, suddenly the reader is pulled under and moving with the tide. What is more beautiful than a novel that finds a way to worship the process of writing as Shields’s does in the first chapter of Unless: ‘I thought I understood something of a novel’s architecture, the lovely slope of predicament, the tendrils of surface detail, the calculated curving upward into inevitability, yet allowing spells of incorrigibility, and then the ending, a corruption of cause and effect and the gathering together of all the characters into a framed operatic circle of consolation and ecstasy, backlit with fibre-optic gold, just for a moment on the second-to-last page, just for an atomic particle of time’? My mind drools, so in love with this language am I.”

—Elaine Joy Lambert from Montoursville, Pennsylvania

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