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‘So Much for That’ a fun read about fatal disease

 so much for that by Lionel Shriver

so much for that by Lionel Shriver

I’d never read anything by Lionel Shriver before now, but what the heck was I waiting for?

Shriver’s novel So Much For That was written a few years back but describes a reality that’s still with us: the bankrupting cost of American health care; workers forced to stay in crummy jobs or lose their insurance; doctors who can prolong your days but not the quality of your life; the humiliation of ending your days in a stultifying old folks’ home; the heartache (and financial toll) of caring for a dying spouse, a dying child, a dying parent, and on and on.

Shriver clearly has a strong opinion about the state of the American system of care, but this is a novel, first and foremost. Her protagonist, Shep Knacker, has been saving his pennies his entire adult life, planning for the day when he can chuck his workaday life and move to paradise. And he’s just about to live out his fantasy when he learns of his wife’s fatal diagnosis. So Much For That is the tale of what happens next.

Shriver’s characters are wonderful: angry, funny, wise, generous and real. Most remarkably, she has written a story that includes a horrendous variety of cancer, a rare and deadly childhood illness, even a gruesome suicide – and yet manages to make it also funny and, in the end, even joyous.

Can it ever be fun to read about fatal disease? In part, in this case, yes.

Felice Belman

Monitor staff

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