Monday, March 3, 2014

Review: "So Much For That" by Lionel Shriver

After absolutely loving Lionel Shriver’s novels We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World, I guess I should have seen the disappointment of her novel So Much For That coming from a mile away. While it is not a mindset I have myself, I’ve begun to see Shriver as the cynical voice of reason we reluctantly need in our lives. Her novels ask really tough questions whose answers might destroy us, or at least help us rebuild after whatever notion we held so dear has crumbled. We Need To Talk About Kevin brought up the horrifying implications of unconditional love between parent and child. In The Post-Birthday World, she questioned the idea of a completely happy ending in life, or the idea of good and bad decisions. But in So Much For That, she tries her hand at a comedy, and she doesn’t really have a handle on it. Not putting her talents to good use, the story she tells is an awkward one, whose jokes and gags fall flat, or are even uncomfortable to sit through, and not in a positive way. Her focus this time is on a newly rich Shep Knacker, who has just sold his company for a million dollars. He has dreamed of escaping to a tropical paradise, known hilariuosuly as “the afterlife”, with or without his nagging family, which includes his wife Glynis, who has just been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare cancer which might be caused by the work that Shep did on homes. Forced to stay home and care for his somewhat awful wife, his precious nest egg is soon depleted from the constant medical bills; his only saving grace is his friend Jackson, who has just as many problems as he does.  There are not many memorable scenes, with the exception of Jackson getting penis enlargement surgery and trying to hide it from his wife, so the reader is left with a lot of humor that is hit or miss, with an ending that, I’ve got to admit, is pretty heartwarming, even if it is bitter. I’d say read her previous two novel if you haven’t, they are a better introduction than this.

Rating: 3/5

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