"Her poor husband has misguidedly hoarded his pennies, when the only currency they spent that had ever counted was time."When So Much for That by Lionel Shriver begins, Shep Knacker is packing his suitcase, preparing to tell his wife, Glynis he is leaving for The Afterlife, a retreat into a Third World country where his nest egg can last forever. Having sold his home repair business a decade earlier and having since been forced to work for the incompetent man who bought the company, Shep has been dreaming of his moment his whole life but Glynis keeps putting it off. Finally Shep decides he is going, with or without her. Unfortunately, plans fall apart when it turns out she has news of her own- she has cancer, and she needs his health insurance. At first, Shep believes that his health insurance will cover the cost of her treatment and he'll still have the money he spent his whole life saving, but he soon realizes that their policy will only cover a small portion of Glynis' bills and as nest egg evaporates Shep is forced to wonder, how much is a human life really worth?
So Much For That was a book I really appreciated while not necessarily enjoying. What I mean by that is, Shriver's writing is great, but the book was often so depressing I almost dreaded picking it up because it would mean another turn of events for the worse. I do feel it has an important story to tell when it comes to the current American system of health care, and even though I am fortunate to live in a country with socialized health care it definitely provided a good reminder of why I am so grateful we have that system in place. I actually found the main storyline of Shep's dying wife less bleak than some of the other medical subplots, in particular a botched surgery which has terrible consequences and whose gruesome imagery I had a very hard time getting out of my mind.
Shriver is clearly a very talented writer, how else would she be able to depress me so thoroughly? At times I even found myself skipping ahead and hoping that if I knew what happened, I would be less depressed when it did, a method that only had limited success. Still, I guess I am glutton for punishment because although I will not be rereading So Much For That I had previously purchased an earlier novel of hers, The Post-Birthday World, and I plan to read it some day when I need a reminder that the world really isn't a bright and sunny place.
That said, there were a few portions of So Much For That which seemed to be there more to make a political statement about health care than to actually add to the story as a whole. Specifically, some of the discussions between Shep and his best friend Jackson, as well as Jackson's constant ranting about pretty much everything, tended to lose my interest and seemed more like a lecture than a novel. It also took me almost a hundred pages to get involved in the book, and if I was one of those people with a rule about giving up after fifty pages I would have missed out on a memorable book. Overall, if you are willing to trudge through some of the slower portions of the book, So Much For That will leave you with important and powerfully worded message.
Release Date: March 1st, 2010
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This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own.