cover image Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

Claire Fuller. Tin House, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-1-951-14248-3

Fuller (Bitter Orange) follows a pair of 51-year-old twins leading an extremely sheltered life in present-day rural England in this evocative and wondrously anachronistic tale. Jeanie and Julius Seeder reside in the small cottage they grew up in with their widowed mother, Dot, who’s just turned 70. Upon Dot’s death, the twins’ lives are upended. Julius, who’s made do with odd jobs, has some social savvy, while his sister, who helped her mother in their extensive garden by supplying eggs and produce to a local market, has had little contact with the outside world. Additionally, Jeanie, felled by rheumatic fever as a child, never learned to read and write, which has rendered even the most mundane tasks into almost insurmountable challenges. The precariousness of their existence comes to the fore when their landlord’s wife evicts them. As the two struggle with making ends meet, another tragedy changes their lives and Jeanie comes to learn the truth behind their mother’s subterfuge that kept them by her side all her life. Though some readers may struggle to find their footing in the somewhat amorphous setting, Fuller builds suspense over the twins’ fate and ends with a brilliant twist. This one is worth staying with. Agent: David Forrer, InkWell Management. (May)