So Much for That

So Much for That

by Lionel Shriver

Arlene Almas: I thought this book would be depressing, but I was wrong. Shep has always dreamed about moving with his family to some unspoiled faraway spot on the globe to get away from the unbridled materialism of our own country. His best friend Jackson is just a down-to-earth guy who rants about all the injustices he perceives around him. Jackson's older daughter has a hereditary degenerative disorder that makes her life, and her parents' lives, almost unbearable, but she is bright and as cynical as the next teenager. Shep's wife is diagnosed with a rare, virulent form of cancer that wreaks havoc on her physically but does not dim her spirit or her caustic wit. The two families' lives are deeply intertwined, and Shep must also deal with his aging father and self-centered sister. I felt that the author managed to keep the story from becoming maudlin or weepy by creating strong characters who live life on their own terms and express themselves very forcefully. Although I was moved by the story, it's not because it was a tear-jerker - it was the reality of it, and the amazing resilience of its characters, that moved me.
Rating: ****

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