Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber, £8.99)

Years ago I read a novel by Barbara Kingsolver called The Poisonwood Bible and was blown away by the beauty of the prose, the evocation of place and the rich characters that lived within the pages.

Kingsolver has kept writing. It has been a joy to follow her career and Unsheltered does not disappoint.

The novel follows two families living in the same house at two separate time periods in Vineland, New Jersey. The modern strand of the story focuses on Willa and her family. The children (Zeke and Tig) are grown up but due to circumstance find themselves back seeking the shelter of home, Zeke with a baby in tow.

Willa and her husband Iano, after years of hard work, find themselves in perilous straits, their careers providing little security. They move to an inherited house that is falling to pieces and this provides us with a link to the second strand.

Thatcher Greenwood and Mary Treat are neighbours in the early days of the Vineland community. They are kindred spirits in a community very suspicious of the new thoughts in scientific thinking, namely Darwin, and they see those thoughts as heretic. T

Modern American life is tough, and Kingsolver’s novel illustrates the vagaries of the medical system with Kafkaesque aplomb. She speaks of a bigoted blowhard running for president, and we can see sharp parallels with earlier times and the community leaders who feared Darwin.

Ultimately this is a book about family and where we find comfort. It is also very much a novel about the climate crisis and the choices we have ahead of us.

Finally, it is a book seeking hope in the next generation, accepting that humans are a difficult and varied species but we shouldn’t give up on them just yet.

Philippa Morris