so much for that
by Lionel Shriver
Shriver's novel begins with the main character, Shep, packing for the trip of his life. He plans on moving away, with his six figures he has saved, to a remote island and living out his days. The catch? He is going with or without his wife and teenage son. This has been his dream since he was a child, and he was no longer going to let others get in the way of that dream. As Shep tells his wife he is going and hopes she joins him, she surprises him with the diagnosis of a deadly cancer. Obviously all plans are off.
This novel takes us through the challenges of a marriage, already on the edge, that has to deal with the slap in the face that is cancer. Their relationship is one of love, but also frustration and pain. Shriver makes me love to hate Shep's wife, who is impossible to please, and not at all the "i accept my fate" cancer patient we sometimes expect. It's a harsh reality to how life is like for the terminally ill.
Shep gets to confide in his best friend Jackson who just happens to be a far right wing enthusiast who hates anything government run. His rants were entertaining, but they also made a great deal of sense and got me thinking. Jackson, although slightly annoying, is hard not to like. His family is just as captivating. He has an infuriating sister who makes my top 5 list of characters I hate (she's that annoying/awful) The characters throughout this book are well thought out and keep things interesting. There is such a wide range of personalities in their lives it reminded me of my own.
Shriver approaches a serious topic -the price of health care in the Unites States- in an upfront, no nonsense way. Both Shep and Jackson face bankruptcy even though they both have insurance. It goes to show the ridiculousness of the system and how it influences medical decisions. "how much is a life worth" is just one question trying to be answered in this novel. There is little romance in this book, but when it shows up, it is very sweet. Shep's marriage seemed very realistic to me, and I appreciated the dynamics between husband and wife that weren't picture perfect or even perfect the majority of the time. These two had issues, but doesn't everyone?
While Shriver writes in the way that creates pictures in my head, she also can come off as a bit too stuffy. Using words and phrases that no one would ever speak aloud made me skim over some explanations and conversations. There were also a lot of very rare diseases and things happening that I doubt really happens to someone all at once.
In the end, I read a book to enjoy myself, not to change my outlook on political or social issues. I don't think the ending could be anymore perfect, and was probably my favorite part. How she ended the story left me satisfied. This book entertained me and made me a fan of Lionel Shriver. Because of this book I read We Need to Talk About Kevin, which blew me away (review pending). I am not a picky reader, but that being said, I still really liked this book.