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Enjoy an evening with author Barbara Kingsolver on Thursday

Ben Jennings, community contributor • Dec 4, 2018 at 4:30 PM

It's no secret that Barbara Kingsolver is one of America's leading writers. Since its release in October and as recent as this week, her latest novel “Unsheltered” has stood toe-to-toe with the likes of Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham on the weekly New York Times bestseller list.

What many local residents may not know, however, is when she's not on a coast-to-coast book tour, it's the mountains of Southwest Virginia, and more specifically Washington County, Va., that she calls home.

And it's there where community members from throughout the region will have an opportunity to meet the award-winning author during a free community celebration.

Friends of the Washington County (Va.) Public Library will host an evening with Barbara Kingsolver at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 6, in the ballroom of the Martha Washington Inn and Spa in Abingdon.

Kingsolver will read from and discuss her latest book and answer questions from the audience. The event, presented as the Friends' holiday gift to the community, is free and open to the public.

“Unsheltered,” which has been near the top of the New York Times bestseller list since its release in October, is the story of two families, in two centuries, who live at the corner of Sixth and Plum in Vineland, New Jersey, navigating what seems to be the end of the world as they know it.

“Unsheltered” is about the uncertainties of our time, in which many of the “shelters” of the past are collapsing. The central characters are a family, in which the husband has lost his job, the wife’s firm has gone out of business, and the adult children are struggling to find their way in the world.

In another time, a troubled husband and public servant asks, “How can a man tell the truth, and be reviled for it?” A science teacher with a passion for honest investigation, Thatcher Greenwood findshimself under siege: his employer forbids him to speak of the exciting work just published by Charles Darwin. His young bride and social-climbing mother-in-law bristle at the risk of scandal, and dismiss his worries that their elegant house is unsound. In a village ostensibly founded as a benevolent Utopia, Thatcher wants only to honor his duties, but his friendships with a woman scientist and a renegade newspaper editor threaten to draw him into a vendetta with the town’s powerful men.

The two stories are linked by the history of the house in which both families live. Kingsolver develops these two stories in alternating chapters, with the last phrase of each chapter being the title of the next.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event and there will be a signing time as well.

Born in 1955, Kingsolver grew up in rural Kentucky. She earned degrees in biology from DePauw University and the University of Arizona, and has worked as a freelance writer and author since 1985. At various times in her adult life, she has lived in England, France and the Canary Islands, and has worked in Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico and South America. She spent two decades in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to Washington County in 2004.

Her books, in order of publication, include “The Bean Trees” (1988),” Homeland” (1989), “Holding the Line: Women in the Great Arizona Mine Strike” (1989), “Animal Dreams” (1990), “Another America” (1992), “Pigs in Heaven” (1993), “High Tide in Tucson” (1995), “The Poisonwood Bible” (1998), “Prodigal Summer” (2000), “Small Wonder” (2002), “Last Stand: America’s Virgin Lands,” with photographer Annie Griffiths Belt (2002), “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” (2007), “The Lacuna” (2009), “Flight Behavior: A Novel” (2012) and “Unsheltered” (2018).

Kingsolver's books have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have been adopted into the core literature curriculum in high schools and colleges across the country. She has contributed to more than 50 literary anthologies, and her reviews and articles have appeared in most major U.S. newspapers and magazines.

She was named one the most important writers of the 20th Century by Writers Digest. In 2000, she received the National Humanities Medal - our country’s highest honor for service through the arts. “The Poisonwood Bible” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Orange Prize, and was an Oprah Book Club selection. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” won numerous prizes, including the James Beard award. “The Lacuna” won Britain's prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010 (the best novel in the world written in the English language by a woman). In 2011, she was awarded the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for the body of her work.

Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, the nation's largest prize for an unpublished first novel, which since 1998 has helped to establish the careers of more than a half dozen new literary voices. Through a recent agreement, the prize has now become the PEN / Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

She has two daughters, Camille and Lily, and a grandchild. Her husband, Steven Hopp, teaches environmental studies at Emory & Henry College and owns the Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview.

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