So Much for That by Lionel Shriver
Harper, March 2010
Can a novel with a message about the state of American health care be entertaining? Yes, if it’s written by Lionel Shriver. So Much for That follows Shep and Glynis Knacker, an upper-middle class couple who are about to retire to Africa on their life’s savings—until Glynis is diagnosed with mesothelioma. The illness and treatment that follows drains their retirement fund and tests their marriage. Is the “cure” is worse than the cancer? How much is one life worth? Shriver takes up these and other issues in the honest, unsentimental style she has trademarked in previous works like The Post-Birthday World and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Shep could feel it, that for Zach suddenly the whole happy-family playacting was too much. The boy didn’t know that until a week ago his father was about to abscond to the east coast of Africa, and he didn’t know that his mother had just been diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer, much less did he know that as far as his mother was concered the disease was his father’s fault. But these highly incidental unsaids emitted the equivalent of the high-frequency sound waves that convenience stores now broadcast outside their shops to keep loitering gangs from the door. What dulled adult ears could no longer detect was unbearable to adolescents, and the same might be said of emotional fraud. Zach popped his pizza pocket early from the taoster and took his half-frozen dinner in a paper towel upstairs without even bothering with “See ya.”
Roast chicken, boiled potatoes and steamed green beans. Glynis commended his preparation, but only picked. “I feel fat,” she admitted.
“You’re underweight. It’s only fluid. You have to stop thinking like that.”
“Suddenly I’m supposed to become a different person?”
“You can be the same person who eats more.”
“Your chicken,” she said, “is probably not what I feel so little appetite for.” This was surely true. Given the purpose of food, an appetite at meals implied an appetite for the future.
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