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Extended Audio Sample Unless Audiobook, by Carol Shields Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.14 out of 53.14 out of 53.14 out of 53.14 out of 53.14 out of 5 3.14 (7 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Carol Shields Narrator: Joan Allen Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2006 ISBN: 9780060794231
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For all of her days, Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light fiction, novels 'for summertime.' This placid existence cracks open one fearful day when her beloved oldest daughter, Norah, drops out of life to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads 'GOODNESS.' Reta's search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope.

Warmth, passion and wisdom come together in Carol Shields' remarkably supple prose. Unless, a harrowing but ultimately consoling story of one family's anguish and healing, proves her mastery of extraordinary fictions about ordinary life.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “All novelists worth their fictional salt can create fine characters; Carol Shields creates lives.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Nothing short of astonishing.”

    New Yorker

  • “Some hefty perceptions, fortunately shared with us in this fine novel.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “The icing on the cake is the ending, which introduces a startling but believable twist to the plight of a young woman who, in doing nothing…has claimed everything. The result is a landmark book that constitutes yet another noteworthy addition to Shields's impressive body of work.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A superb new novel…a graceful coda, an arabesque performed over an abyss.”


  • “A thing of beauty—lucidly written, artfully ordered, riddled with riddles and undergirded with dark layers of philosophical meditations.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “A novel of…assured intelligence and defiant vivacity.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • Unless succeeds beautifully…Shields [is] an expert at illuminating the complicated dynamics of off-kilter families.”

    Atlanta Journal Constitution

  • “Truly, a miracle of language and perception.”


  • “With a poet’s precision, Shields dissects grief and makes coping with bad luck feel like domestic heroism.”


  • A 2002 Scotiabank Giller Prize Nominee
  • A 2003 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Nominee
  • A 2002 Governor General’s Literary Award Finalist
  • One of the 2002 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction
  • A 2002 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Fiction
  • Shortlisted for the 2003 Orange Prize for Fiction
  • A 2002 Man Booker Prize Finalist
  • A 2003 Audie Award Finalist
  • Audio Publisher’s Association “Audie” Award

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 5/22/2011

    " The author is eloquent, has a large vocabulary and can turn a phrase very well. But this story left me lacking. It put me to sleep every night, maybe because the subject matter was depressing. But I plugged through and the last few chapters were better reads for me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Erin | 5/10/2011

    " Book club book - very fast read, but I was not on board with most of the story. I wish more events would have unfolded instead of just the main character reviewing and looking back on her own life. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 5/9/2011

    " Amazing writer. You cannot go wrong with Carol Shields. This is a quiet-ish book, but deep. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Swithin | 4/26/2011

    " I'm being churlish - this is tipping the 5-star for me, really. Beautifully written, the ending had a slight let-down, I felt. As a writer - the tops! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Christa | 4/13/2011

    " Surprisingly moving, much better than I thought it would be. Great read. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Evelyn | 3/23/2011

    " Gave this book 100 pages - I kept trying to get into it - and finally decided that I did not care about this story at all. In fact, I don't know if I have ever finished a Carol Shields book. Not my preferred writing style, I guess! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anjula | 3/8/2011

    " I like Carol Shields, but I had a hard time getting into this one. I was more interested in the storyline about her daughter, than about her as a writer. "

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About the Author
Author Carol Shields

Carol Shields was born in Chicago and lived in Canada for most of her life. She is the author of three short-story collections and eight novels, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Stone Diaries and Larry’s Party, winner of the Orange Prize.

About the Narrator

Joan Allen has worked in theater, television, and film during her early career and achieved recognition for her Broadway debut in Burn This, winning a Tony Award. She has received three Academy Award nominations, including two for Best Supporting Actress for Nixon and The Crucible and one for Best Actress for The Contender. Her other films include The Ice Storm, Face/Off, Pleasantville, The Notebook, and The Bourne Ultimatum.