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.