So Much for That

So Much for That

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
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"A 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 cost of medical care in modern America"--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Harper, [2010], ©2010
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780061458583
0061458589
Branch Call Number: FICTION Shr
Characteristics: 436 pages ; 24 cm

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Chapel_Hill_KenMc Dec 20, 2014

Extremely disappointing novel by a competent writer who seems to have forgotten how to make a novel work. Shriver takes on the important topic of health care and sickness in the U.S. today, but delivers a book with leaden exposition, alternating with monologues set up too obviously to deliver her political barbs. The characters never quite come to life, and fail to carry the weight her subject calls for. I will give her snaps for attempting to explode the tendency to portray suffering from terminal cancer as a "battle," which means that if one loses, it must be due to weakness or lack of strategic planning.

brianreynolds Feb 03, 2013

Writing a comedy (i.e. a story that moves toward union and self-fulfillment) about the North American way of dying, the ethical vacuum of American healthcare, and the suffering of a modern-day Job is a difficult task even for a Lionel Shriver. While it's always possible to cobble together a happy ending in the final fifty pages, it's hard for a book like <i>So Much for That</i> to be anything but depressing and boring. (By no means am I slandering Shriver's witty verbiage, her flowing sentences or her precision of detail. She is after all Lionel Shriver!) By the time her technical assessments of the system have been ranted to a merciful death and the victims of age, disease and angst have been dispatched to their final resting places, it's hard indeed to celebrate the symbolic weddings of the remaining cast. How hard was it? When the first character finally took the easy way out with a lethal self-inflicted wound to the brain, I cheered. My first thought: would the author dare terminate the entire crew in a similar manner? Sadly, not. Sadly, the happy ending is accomplished only by turning the survivors into middleclass deadbeats and tax-evaders whose crimes are conveniently excused as protests against "the system."

ser_library Jun 09, 2011

i skipped the long middle

ksoles May 19, 2011

"Remember how sometimes, in the middle, a movie seems to drag? I get restless, take a leak, or go for popcorn. But sometimes, the last part, it heats up and then right before the credits one of us starts to cry--well, then you forget about the crummy middle, don't you?" I'm sure Lionel Shriver was not attempting to describe her latest novel as she wrote this but, funnily enough, the quote perfectly describes So Much For That.

This book deals with the infinite shortcomings of the American healthcare system. As the protagonist, Shep, nears retirement, he dreams of the "Afterlife" on a remote African island. Mere days before he and his family are to embark on their adventure, Shep learns that his wife, Glynis, has terminal cancer. Thus ensues a story (intertwined with three sub-plots) of undecipherable hospital bills, impossibly apathetic insurance companies and dwindling investments.

At times, the novel reads like a polemic against corporate America; the repetition in certain characters' rants gets tedious and Shriver loses touch with the reader at a few points (hence my opening quote). However, Shriver's prose ranges from the sharp and witty to the touching and profound. She adds elements of humour to what is, at heart, a tragic story while also maintaining a strong sense of reality. And yes, the ending does indeed make up for the "crummy middle."

c
Carterpenj
Jan 14, 2011

A book that is slow to get into, mainly because the characters are depicted in terms of their attitudes and reactions to how their life experiences have failed to live up to their early expectations. Shep Knacker the protaganist expected a very early retirement in a country (Africa - Pemba) with a much lower cost of living and fundamental lifestyle. His generous behaviour and accommodation of his wife's, daughter's, sister's, father's, and best friend Jackson's wants, however preclude him from attaining this. The book opens with his plan to achieve this goal - the "afterlife" - as he calls it, only to learn that his wife has terminal cancer. Most of the book deals with critical/fatal illnesses (Jackson's daughter has FD - a rare and debilitating condition), the enormous personal and financial costs to those living with them and caring for those having them, and the injustices of the American health system. Other than Shep, the majority of the characters are self-centred. The storyline is interesting, and the final chapters become more traditional and "happily everafter". I also found that I thought about this book as I was reading, and did not just rip through it as I do with many - so from that perspective I am giving it one of my higher ratings.

c
colleen_gr
Jan 07, 2011

A fantastically well-written book. It captures you from the beginning.

Although it gets a little slow half to three-quarters of the way through, stick with it; the end is fantastic!

A good read!

debwalker Dec 10, 2010

"My personal favorite novel of the year was Lionel Shriver's So Much For That, a black comedy about the emotional and financial cost of health care in America. Shriver's satire tackles the twin questions about cutting-edge medical treatments of life-threatening illnesses: "At what cost?" and "To what end?""
Maureen Corrigan's Favorite Books Of 2010

l
LaRoyal
Jul 04, 2010

Loved it... about the price of human life.... great character development too

v
vickiz
May 30, 2010

Lionel Shriver's So Much For That is a jolting experience, but it's not a rollercoaster ride. That would suggest moments of ascent and exhilaration as well as gut wrenching downward spirals. So Much For That is more a steady descent into hell for two middle class American families: comparatively modestly living their lives, contending with some challenges, experiencing personal and professional triumphs, making some mistakes and errors in judgement along the way, but nothing that would seemingly warrant the misery that Shriver visits upon them.

What reader would perversely stick around for such a dismal journey, one that dredges up the worst case scenario catastrophes lurking beneath and waiting to be unleashed by everyday occurrences that start out benignly enough: a doctor's appointment, a credit card debt that is starting to get a bit out of hand, an elderly but still independent parent taking a tumble, a reprimand from a perhaps unreasonable boss about some late office arrivals ...?

The reader learns quickly that Shriver doesn't shy away from a single humiliating detail of those situations run tragically amuck, no matter how intimate or grim it gets. Just as quickly, the reader comes to trust Shriver's laser precise honesty and the fundamental clarity with which she imbues or finally bestows on her central characters (peripheral characters, not so much - they're irritating foils, albeit rendered with razor sharp wit). That potent, acerbic honesty means you won't look away either, no matter how much those scenarios are your own worst nightmares.

As unflinching as Shriver is delineating each character's folly, self-absorption, selfishness or delusion, she is equally generous showing their resilience, courage and tenderness. The result is a story populated with believable, not always likeable or lovable, fully dimensional characters tackling real situations that might still illustrate our own worst fears, but inspire us to approach them with the same ultimate grace.

Still, is patriarch Shepherd too much a literal rendering of his own name, and perhaps an unrealistic modern Job? After the ragged, searing twists, turns and injustices throughout the novel, is the ending just a bit too neatly sewn up? Perhaps, but after the rough ride Shriver takes her characters and readers on, the ending feels reasonable, compassionate and earned, as Shep captures in a moving and candid moment with his terminally ill and finally fiercely undeluded wife:

"You know, these movies ..." He was groping. "Remember how sometimes, in the middle, a movie seems to drag? I get restless, and take a leak, or go for popcorn. But sometimes, the last part, it heats up, and then right before the credits one of us starts to cry - well, then you forget about the crummy middle, don't you? You don't care about the fact that it started slow, or had some plot twist along the way that didn't scan. Because it moved you, because it finally pulled together, you think, when you walk out, that it was a good movie, and you're glad you went, See, Gnu?" he promised. "We can still end well."

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vickiz
May 30, 2010

"You know, these movies ..." He was groping. "Remember how sometimes, in the middle, a movie seems to drag? I get restless, and take a leak, or go for popcorn. But sometimes, the last part, it heats up, and then right before the credits one of us starts to cry - well, then you forget about the crummy middle, don't you? You don't care about the fact that it started slow, or had some plot twist along the way that didn't scan. Because it moved you, because it finally pulled together, you think, when you walk out, that it was a good movie, and you're glad you went, See, Gnu?" he promised. "We can still end well."

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