Wednesday, June 6, 2012

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver

So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
Published March 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: Bought this one for book club

Shep Knacker has been saving for all of his married life for The Afterlife, a time when he and his family will just pack up and move onto a life somewhere else, some place where they won't have to work at jobs they don't like, some place far away from the life they have led. And he doesn't want to wait until normal retirement, he wants to do it while he's still young enough to enjoy it. The family has never gone on vacations, they've gone on research trips and Shep has amassed a wealth of knowledge about all of the places they've investigated. To prepare for The Afterlife, Shep and his wife, Glynnis, have sold their home and he has sold his business and for seven years Shep has been waiting and planning for the day to arrive when they will leave. But Glynnis has never fully signed on to the plan, something that has annoyed Shep but has never stopped him from planning. Just when Shep has decided he is leaving for the island he has finally settled on, with or without Glynnis and their son, Glynnis announces that she has mesothelioma, an extremely rare and extremely deadly form of cancer.

Despite his obsession with The Afterlife, Shep has always been the one that did the right thing, that made sure everyone was taken care of, particularly financially. So he is not about to leave Glynnis to fight this battle on her own. Particularly now that she needs him to keep working for the schmuck that bought his company so she can have the health insurance she so desperately needs.

I am sorry to say that I foisted this one off on the Omaha Bookworms. When another member and I couldn't talk them into reading Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin because the subject matter frightened them off, I suggested with we at least try another Shriver novel. I owe them all an apology. This book is too long, it has too many subplots, Shriver tries too hard to make the reader angry (okay, on this she succeeds) and I'd be surprised to find anyone who cared about any of the characters.

The Knackers have a best friend who is just angry about everything - he is forever ranting about one thing or another. In fact, there is hardly a subject of interest when it comes to public interest that Shriver doesn't have Jackson raving about. So I'm certain that her intent is to fire up her reader. But I just found him ridiculous, just as he wife, his friends and his coworkers did. If it's that bad, do something to try to change it.

I also couldn't figure out if Shriver had just not done a very good job researching health insurance or if she had deliberately chosen to give the Knackers the worst possible health insurance on the planet. I've been working in insurance for more than a dozen years as well as having dealt with that many different health plans over the years personally; and I have never encountered a plan where you could eat through half a million dollars in a year. Never. First of all, the providers wouldn't expect it to all be paid that quickly. Secondly, I have never seen a plan without an out-of-pocket maximum, which would limit the liability of the insured. If you actually had a group plan as bad as the one the Knackers had, there was no point in holding onto a job just for the insurance.

I had to force myself through this one and only did that so I would be able to discuss it with my group. Skip this one - read We Need To Talk About Kevin instead. It is painful in a way that will stick with you and make you want to talk about it with everyone who reads it. This one was painful in a way that just made me want to forget about it.


  1. Great review - I haven't heard that many positive things about this book. It's wonderful that you've been so frank and honest. I think I will skip this one and hunt out my copy of We Need to Talk About Kevin.

    New to your blog!
    Stephanie @ Stepping Out of the Page

  2. I haven't read this one, and probably won't, but I enjoyed that you shared your thoughts with us. Have a great week.

  3. Oh, no! I thought So Much for That was a really powerful novel. I think the insurance bind that Shep was caught in was intended to be an extreme example, not the average person's experience. I can see that it wouldn't be a good choice for most book clubs, though! ;)