Chuck Erion's Reviews > So Much for That

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
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's review
May 10, 10

bookshelves: american-novels
Read in April, 2010

** spoiler alert ** Schriver, an American writer who lives in London, has a reputation for bringing insight to topical issues. We Need to Talk About Kevin, winner of the 2005 Orange Prize, dealt with a Columbine-like high school killing, but with bow-and-arrows, not rifles. So Much for That (HarperCollins $32.95) takes on the American medical insurance mess. Shep Knacker is finally going to do it. For years he’s been researching third-world countries where his savings (he sold his handyman business) will go further than in the States. His wife, Glynnis, a sometime metal smith, doesn’t share his fantasies of The Afterlife. On the night he plans to leave without her, she drops the bomb: she has a rare, and probably terminal, cancer. Of course he will stay with her and see this through.
The ensuing months are filled with her chemo treatments as Shep watches his savings dwindle. He’s back at work for the jerk that bought his company, and also coping with a reclusive teenage son, an elderly father and never-grown-up sister. His best friend at work is likewise burdened with a disabled daughter, and a secret – he’s had penis enlargement surgery that’s gone horribly wrong.
So Much for That reminded me of the biblical tale of Job, an upright man suffering from no end of physical and social torments. Shriver’s writing borders on the satirical: we need to laugh to reassure ourselves that this shouldn’t be happening. She also leaves no thought unturned. The extensive interior dialogue of each of her characters leaves little to the imagination. But her timing regarding social issues is impeccable. Although written over the past 3 years, it was released in March in the midst of the Obama health insurance debate.

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