Books: Turning Over The Last Page

Dying of breast cancer, Carol Shields talks about her life, her illness and her superb new novel, Unless

I knew I wanted her to be a writer," says Carol Shields. "I wanted her to be about 40 years old. I wanted her to live in a certain house. And I wanted something terrible to happen to her."

Perched on an overstuffed armchair that looks like it might swallow her whole, Shields is talking about Reta Winters, the heroine of her new novel, Unless, but she isn't being cruel--or if she is, it's because life itself is cruel. Shields needed something terrible to happen to Reta because something terrible was happening to her. Shields, 66, is dying of breast...

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