So Much For That – By Lionel Shriver

Posted by Abi:

Shep Knacker’s life is the anti American Dream. His handyman business has become so successful he’s sold it for a million dollars, but he has the money earmarked for an escape from his life in the US to an early retirement on a tiny island in Africa – with or without his wife and son. There is, Shriver says, “something especially terrible about being told over and over that you have the most wonderful life on earth and it doesn’t get any better and it’s still shit“. But Shep’s escape plans go awry when, just as he is about to leave, his wife Glynis announces that she has a rare form of cancer and needs him to pay for her medical treatment.

Lionel Shriver has never been one to shy away from controversial subjects. Whether detailing the upbringing of a mass murderer in We Need to Talk About Kevin or the issues surrounding morbid obesity in her latest novel Big Brother, she always faces big subjects head on with a healthy dose of black humour.

So Much for That is no exception. This book is about cancer. The C Word. The big taboo. It’s also a scathing précis of the US healthcare system, where every chapter is headed with the dwindling bank balance of Shep Knacker, supporting his wife Glynis through her mesothelioma . At the same time, Shep’s aged father’s health is declining too, and his best friend Jackson has undergone surgery which has gone badly wrong. It doesn’t sound funny at all. But it is.

It’s not always easy for us to understand the American healthcare system in the UK, given that we are lucky enough to have the NHS, but So Much for That makes terrifyingly clear the extremes it can push families to. Forced to consider whether to move his father to a cheaper, sub-standard nursing home in order to free up more money for Glynis’ treatment, Shep has to make the kind of decisions we all hope never to have to make. The questions which loom over the whole story are cruel: just how much is Glynis’ life worth? How much is each additional day her treatment gives her worth?

Light relief comes in the form of the inappropriate comments Glynis’ uncomfortable visitors make (“At least the cancer has sure made you thin.”) and Jackson’s rants about pretty much everything. But the book’s serious subject matter is close to Shriver’s own heart; she admits that when her friend, Terri, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, she put off visiting, and “always found a reason not to call“. Above all, So Much for That is about the effects of terminal illness on those around the patient; the guilt, cowardice and clumsiness it causes make its costs both financial and emotional.


Read This Book …
With a big dose of appreciation for the NHS and a tropical cocktail in hand.


This book is a … Epic Read





Genre: Fiction
Paperback ISBN: 9780007271085
ebook ISBN: 9780007351886


Buy The Book:

*Also available as an audiobook.


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