At fifty-one years old, twins Jeanie and Julius still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation in the English countryside. The cottage they have shared their entire lives is their only protection against the modernizing world around them. Inside its walls, they make music, and in its garden, they grow everything they need to survive. To an outsider, it looks like poverty; to them, it is home.
But when Dot dies unexpectedly, the world they've so carefully created begins to fall apart. The cottage they love, and the security it offered, is taken back by their landlord, exposing the twins to harsh truths and even harsher realities. Seeing a new future, Julius becomes torn between the loyalty he feels towards his sister and his desire for independence, while Jeanie struggles to find work and a home for them both. And just when it seems there might be a way forward, a series of startling secrets from their mother's past come to the surface, forcing the twins to question who they are, and everything they know of their family's history.
In Unsettled Ground, award-winning author Claire Fuller masterfully builds a tale of sacrifice and hope, of homelessness and hardship, of love and survival, in which two marginalized and remarkable people uncover long-held family secrets and, in their own way, repair, recover, and begin again.
- ISBN-13: 9781951142483
- ISBN-10: 1951142489
- Publisher: Tin House Books
- Publish Date: May 2021
- Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Page Count: 330
What happens to our secrets after death? What do we do when we discover things we never imagined—about ourselves, our families or the stories we tell to make sense of the world? These questions drive Claire Fuller’s engaging Unsettled Ground.
As the novel opens, 51-year-old twins Jeanie and Julius are at a loss when their mother, Dot, dies unexpectedly. The twins lived in a cottage with Dot; Jeanie, who has a heart condition and never learned to read or write, tends the garden, while Julius brings in a small income by way of odd jobs in town. Their home is their sanctuary until Dot’s death, when the careful life she controlled and constructed for her family begins to crack. Questions arise about past and present relationships, land and money.
The reader travels with Jeanie and Julius as they begin to grapple with the complexities of adulthood and the truth about their mother. This exploration builds a sense of mystery at a slow and steady pace. There comes a moment when the reader must know what happened, and they won’t be able to stop reading until they discover how it all resolves.
Even the title opens up questions, about what it means to settle or to remain unsettled, and about the nature of home and how one is made. The story exists on ground that has been disturbed by secrets and money, by the need for both independence and connection—and that ground continues to shift underfoot as the novel progresses.
Readers will root for Jeanie and Julius to survive and, even more than that, to live.