Saturday, September 13, 2014

Book Review: So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

A Message to Make the Most of What You Have and Don't Waste Time

I have read books by this author in the past and for me this seemed like a gamble. I have loved books from her such as A Perfectly Good Family (recommend) that featured three quirky siblings caught in an impossible dilemma. But I have also read books by the author that have made me angry like Double Fault that sucked me in and had such a disappointing ending (as well as characters that I felt no sympathy for).

I wasn't sure if I could like these characters in So Much For That but ultimately I did even if the author's portrayal of them was often honest and brutal. Death is never tidy and a terminal illness being one of the central themes of the story didn't always bring the best of out of people. The author did not sugar coat any of it.

Shep Knacker always had a plan to get out of the rat race in what he dubbed "The Afterlife", scrimping to save what he could for the ultimate goal of moving to a third world county and living in relative luxury due to the low cost of daily living. Every action along the way was in some way an investment for this ultimate goal which included some sacrifices along the way such as selling his successful business, renting vs. owning a home, etc. etc. Somehow the plan became more of a dream and Shep finds himself in a job he hates, working for the new owner of the business he developed and living in a house with a remote wife and an unreachable son. He decides that if he doesn't leave now, he might never do it, so he gives his wife an ultimatum to join him. His wife, Glyn, informs him that she has cancer and needs his insurance. Shep stays put to take care of her.

Even with insurance, Shep finds the savings he has worked his whole life to save for the plan quickly diminish. As a man with some funds, he also has a sister and a father who have come to depend on him and his relationships with them change as he becomes a devoted caretaker for  his wife. A gamut of emotions and trials find Shep transforming as he still struggles to keep it all together as he watches his wife in the struggles of staying alive. Glyn was feisty and a strong woman before she became sick and that doesn't change, and the natural supports that they may have envisioned become alienated quickly.

There are several other story lines in this book but there is definitely a social commentary on the medical system we have in America where even with money one can become bankrupt. Then there is the question about prolonging someone's life and at what cost from an emotional level as there is also suffering.

I really recommend this one. Powerful book without being preachy and the characters are well formed. I enjoyed this one despite the subject matter. 

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