So Much for That
By Lionel Shriver
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061458583, 448pp.)
Publication Date: March 2010
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From the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Post-Birthday World comes a searing, ruthlessly honest new novel about a marriage both stressed and strengthened by the demands of serious illness.
Shep Knacker has long saved for "The Afterlife": an idyllic retreat to the Third World where his nest egg can last forever. Traffic jams on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will be replaced with "talking, thinking, seeing, and being"and enough sleep. When he sells his home repair business for a cool million dollars, his dream finally seems within reach. Yet Glynis, his wife of twenty-six years, has concocted endless excuses why it's never the right time to go. Weary of working as a peon for the jerk who bought his company, Shep announces he's leaving for a Tanzanian island, with or without her.
Just returned from a doctor's appointment, Glynis has some news of her own: Shep can't go anywhere because she desperately needs his health insurance. But their policy only partially covers the staggering bills for her treatments, and Shep's nest egg for The Afterlife soon cracks under the strain.
Enriched with three medical subplots that also explore the human costs of American health care, So Much for That follows the profound transformation of a marriage, for which grave illness proves an unexpected opportunity for tenderness, renewed intimacy, and dry humor. In defiance of her dark subject matter, Shriver writes a page-turner that presses the question: How much is one life worth?
Lionel Shriver's previous novels include The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin (winner of the Orange Prize), and The Female of the Species. She lives in London and Brooklyn, New York.
So Much For That, Lionel Shriver's new novel, is about a middle-aged man forced to give up his dream of retirement on a tropical island when his wife falls ill and he's forced to go back to work to keep his employee health insurance. Critic Maureen Corrigan says the novel "acknowledge[s] the dramatic depth that fiction can bring to the debate over current events." More at NPR.org
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“Shriver writes in precise, dynamic prose…. If anyone’s going to perk up the often-limp niceness of the women’s novel it’s Shriver, who has no use for earth mothers or noble victims…. The climax offers more fun, vengeful satisfaction and pure tenderness than any treatise on the future of healthcare.”
-Ella Taylor, Los Angeles Times
“The rare novel that will shake and change you. With these wholly realistic and sympathetic characters, [Shriver] makes us consider the most existential questions of our lives and the dreadful calculus of modern health care in this country…. It’s a bitter pill, indeed, but take it if you can.”
-Ron Charles, Washington Post
“Harrowing yet riveting.... Wisely, Shriver doesn’t make her characters all saints.... [They] come alive with visceral abandon.... Clever, convincing...stubbornly real-and chillingly personal.”
-Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune
“Neither stingy with subplots nor shy about taking on timely, complex issues, [Shriver] tosses plenty of both into the pot with real daring and brio.”
-Leah Hager Cohen, New York Times Book Review
“Brave, bold. . . . A page turner. . . . Brilliantly funny and a superb plotter, Shriver is a master of the misanthrope. . . . [A] viciously smart writer.”
-Mary Pols, Time
“[A] shrewd, ambitious novel. . . . Shriver’s prose is frank and often beautiful . . . nuanced and persuasive.”
-The New Yorker
“[An] immaculate, hilarious, and authentically dark new novel. . . . A cast of characters as absurd and entertaining as they are real.”
-Cathi Hanauer, Elle
“A visceral and deeply affecting story, a story about how illness affects people’s relationships, and how their efforts to grapple with mortality reshape the arcs of their lives…. [Shriver’s] understanding of her people is so intimate, so unsentimental…it lofts these characters permanently into the reader’s imagination.”
-Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“A delicious novel. . . . So Much for That, Lionel Shriver’s improbably feel-good black comedy, is the rare book that can make suicide, near-bankruptcy and terminal cancer so engaging you can’t wait to turn the page. . . . Provocative, entertaining-and so very timely.”
-Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today
“[Shriver] certainly has her finger on national nerves.”