Book Review: So Much For That

Goodreads synopsis: 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?

I seriously struggled with this book, and not because of the heavy content. The end of the book even includes a section on why the book is not a bummer. Mmmmmm… Yeah, it kind of is. But to be honest, the dark subject matter dealing with death, the health care system and how people deal with sickness wasn’t what I struggled with, it was what kept me going. As someone who spends an unusually large amount of time in a chemo room and dealing with a potentially life threatening disease, I am quite interested in all of those things. What I struggled with were the characters. They were loathsome creatures who were self-absorbed and deeply entrenched in their roles as victims of their lives. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find a single redeeming quality in a single one of them, including a teenage girl with a degenerative disease.That takes work my friends. As someone who has dealt with bad news from the doctor, and continues to do so, I have little patience for the poor me attitude that was the center of every character in the book. It gets hard to continue reading a book when you don’t like any of the characters, but I sludged through, and in the end I am glad that I did. Like I said, the subject matter interested me and is something that I am rather close too. The question of the worth of one person’s life is something that I struggle with constantly as the healthcare costs for my disease costs a crazy amount of money every year. I worry about costing so much, what J’s company will think, being a drain on the system, and so on. In a way, this book helped me with that a little bit. It gave me a bit of perspective on the kind of money that is spent every day on millions of people. It reminded me that I am not the only one out there costing a lot of money and that frequently much higher amounts are spent to keep a person alive for a few more months. Now, I am not here to argue the rights and wrongs of the healthcare system. I think there is a lot of grey in that argument and it can be very hard to know what is right and wrong when it isn’t happening to you or your loved one. But I can say that this book did a pretty good job simply presenting the issue without pushing an opinion. I also really related to what it’s like dealing with people when you are the sick one, how it can be difficult sometimes to deal with everyone’s concern and worry, and how finding subject matter that works for both sides can be challenging. People don’t want to tell the sick person all the great things in their lives but the sick people don’t want to hear others complaints of their relatively carefree lives. It can make conversations tricky when everyone over-thinks, and that is a part of the book that I really enjoyed and related to. In the end, I am glad that I read that book because of the subject matter and how closely I related to much of it. It got me thinking about a lot of things and I am always happy when a book does that. But it’s not a book that I would necessarily recommend to a friend unless they were interested in the subject or perhaps had a sick loved one.

Anyways, sorry for the super wordy review. Like I said, the book got me thinking…

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