Tag Archive | Darwin

Book Review: Unsheltered

Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver

In poking around on the library’s website, I found a novel by Barbara Kingsolver that looked intriguing. It had been a while since I had read her work, but I had enjoyed the Poisonwood Bible several years ago.


Unsheltered is the story of two families who live on the same block of Vineland, New Jersey 140 years apart.  It is a planned, utopian city, founded by Charles Landis, a notable eccentric who wanted the community to abide by his rules.

In the present day, Willa Knox and her multi-generational family move into a large, run down home that was willed to them when an aunt passed away. She goes looking for ways to help fund a renovation of the home, including seeking out grants based on the preservation of a historically significant home.

Back in the 1870s, Thatcher Greenwood lived in Vineland, a high school science teacher who is at odds with his principal for teaching evolution based science. Thatcher meets an unexpected ally and friend in his next door neighbor, Mary Treat, a middle aged woman with an interest in botany and small animals and insects.

Kingsolver weaves the two stories together, in her characteristic style of switching back and forth between the families and time periods.  It is effortless and interesting, with her complex character development.  You find yourself invested in their lives, cheering and cursing their decisions, and feeling their pain. 

The historic context of this novel was the real win.  Because Mary Treat is real, and the town of Vineland, New Jersey and its founder, Charles Landis, are real.  Kingsolver makes these real life characters come to life on the page, and tells a part their stories for a new generation of readers. 

5 stars.

I Get the Ones Darwin Didn’t Want

So Martini got the phone call from the Governor this morning.  The reprieve from death row… or in other words, she managed to weasel out of her dental cleaning.

Jon, bless his heart, somehow didn’t put two and two together that me talking about Martini’s dental appointment and taking the cats food away at 8 pm on Thursday night were related events.  So, early this morning, while I was still sleeping, he fed them…  When I woke up he told me how nice he was to have fed them so they wouldn’t wake me up… Wha?

So I called the vet to tell them she wouldn’t be in (the receptionist had a hearty laugh about it – I think she’s heard this story before) but that I would still bring the other two in with her at the end of the day for their annual checkups.  I left work early and went home to suit up so I could kitty-wrangle all 3 into carriers for the occasion.

So we got to the vet and as it turns out, this vet doesn’t think she really needs a cleaning all that badly – Oscar needs one within the next reasonable while (6 months to a year), and his teeth are worse than Martini’s.  Oliver, my big guy, somehow seems to skate out without ever needing his teeth cleaned – apparently he has lovely saliva PH.  We can’t all be blessed… Oliver has other deficits, like not being the sharpest tool in the shed, so to speak.  But I digress.

Now, because, I can’t ever have an animal who doesn’t have some costly physical ailment, the vet is concerned about Martini’s slight stature (apparently skinny isn’t the new skinny for this vet) and her poor hair coat.  We’ve dealt with the poor hair coat for years, and I thought it was related to the food allergy, but he thinks she’s got a different issue (I would say a bigger issue, but her food allergy is really severe).  Hyperthyroid…  Perhaps a kidney issue, or liver issue, but he is putting his money on the thyroid.

After a pricey blood panel, we’ll find out tomorrow if we are looking at twice daily pills for the near future, and the option of radioactive iodine thyroid therapy further out.  The radioactive poop was a charming idea!

So, back to Darwin… Seems I never pick the animals who are the ‘survival of the fittest’ types.  They must somehow know I’m a sucker for the ones who need me. That’s it!  I’m the Ellis Island of animal medical cases!  “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  And with Martini snuggled on my lap as I write this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Update: Martini’s blood and urine workup came back negative for thyroid issues!  YAY!  There was some concentrated blood in her urine however.  The vet thinks that it is a kidney infection, but that her kidneys are still functioning well (apparently if they were not functioning well the blood would not be as concentrated).  So two weeks of Amoxicillin and hopefully she’ll be back to full kitty health!  Or at least elderly kitty with a severe food allergy health.  I’ll take what I can get.  And since the vet clinic was already closed by the time they were able to call back with the lab results, they hung the bottle of antibiotics on the door so I could swing by and grab them and not have to wait until Monday.  You don’t get service like that anymore!