Unless is a 2002 semi-autobiographical, critically-acclaimed novel written by American-born Canadian and Pulitzer-prize winning author Carol Shields. It is, in fact, the last book she ever wrote, as she passed away from cancer shortly after the novel's publication.
The story follows a 44-year-old woman named Reta Winters who is a writer and a translator. She has three daughters, and the eldest of them, Norah, decides to drop out of university and leave her loving boyfriend and family in order to sit in the street with a begging bowl in front of her and a sign around her neck that says "Goodness." She refuses to speak and ignores her family's attempts to bring her back home.
The novel showcases the complexity of family relationships. Soon, the readers realize that Norah did everything with the purpose of showing the social injustices that all women go through, and her actions inspire everyone around her to rethink their life choices and reevaluate their role and position in society, especially her mother.