SO MUCH FOR THAT
BY LIONEL SHRIVER
From New York Times bestselling author Lionel Shriver (The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin), comes a searing, deeply humane novel about a crumbling marriage resurrected in the face of illness, and a family’s struggle to come to terms with disease, dying, and the obscene cost of medical care in modern America.
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?ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lionel Shriver is a novelist whose previous books include Orange Prize–winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, and Ordinary Decent Criminals. She is widely published as a journalist, writing features, columns, op-eds, and book reviews for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist, Marie Claire, and many other publications. She is frequently interviewed on television, radio, and in print media. She lives in London and Brooklyn, NY
Shepherd Knacker is the kind of character that most people, like myself, can relate to. In SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver, Shep is just the nice kind of guy who works hard and does things the way he is supposed to, paying his bills and even helping out some of his relatives. He cares for his family responsibly and like so many, puts off his own dreams. The handyman business he started became a success and you would think with all things right in the world, he would be happy but his dream was to leave all the crowds, traffic, and noise behind and just be somewhere that he would have time to think and read and live simply on much less money than now. Shepherd calls this dream place “Afterlife” and living this simple life out in a third world country is his goal. He talks of it so often but his wife, Gwynis, never seems to take him seriously and never thinks it is the right time to go. Shep seriously building a small savings-a nest egg, sells his business to one of his employees to further uncomplicate his life in order to be ready to carry out his dream of Afterlife.
When Shepherd finally decides one day that he can’t wait forever, he leaves his job and says he is ready and moving now to a third world country to carry out his dream. He tells Gwynis he is going with or without her. However, ironically, when he tells her, she has just found out the devastating news that she has cancer caused by asbestos and she desperately needs Shep’s health insurance for her care and treatment of what is most likely a death sentence.
As we watch Shepherd’s life savings and dream slowly dwindle away as it is used to help pay for cancer treatments for Gwynis, we see Lionel Shriver taking on our country’s healthcare system. The story deals with the harsh reality of just how much our health insurance really covers in a devastating illness like this and how oncology gives patients treatments that only extend their lives for a few weeks or months while draining a family’s financial resources. Shriver pulls no punches in clearly telling how much isn’t covered even under Medicare. The novel relates just how this can put a strain on the best relationship and in a situation where one of the partners is weaker than the other, it can be overwhelming. Jackson, who is Shepherd’s best friend, plays an important role as the couple’s friendship is involved with the steady decline of health care and Shep’s savings. Jackson and Shep get into some realistic, well-written dialogue about insurance companies, local government, and everything capitalism is involved with.
With real, hard hitting questions of how long does one allow treatment to continue when only buying minimal time, to how do friendships and marital relationships hold up when dealing with death, SO MUCH FOR THAT will hold your attention and push readers to face some reality and perhaps the question of their own mortality. Shriver’s well written characters and convincing dialogue make SO MUCH FOR THAT a relative book to read and surprisingly hold one’s attention and keep the reader turning pages perhaps, I think, in hope of a fairy tale ending as after all, this is fiction, isn’t it?
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