So Much for That: A Novel by Lionel Shriver | Audiobook (CD) | Barnes & Noble
So Much for That

So Much for That

3.6 35
by Lionel Shriver, Dan John Miller
     
 

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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 business for a cool million dollars, his dream finally seems

Overview

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 business for a cool million dollars, his dream finally seems within reach. Yet his wife Glynis 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.
So Much for That follows the profound transformation of a marriage, and Shriver delivers a compelling novel that presses the question: How much is one life worth?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dan John Miller's performance of Shriver's novelistic inquiry into the failures of the American health care system is not to be missed. Miller's vocal choices are perfect for every character, from Shep's elderly, New Hampshire-accented father to severely disabled teenage Flicka, whose fiery intelligence come through despite her slurred speech. When Shep explains his lifelong goal of retiring to a remote, primitive country, Miller's passionate voice, full of determination and longing, makes it clear that this is no whimsical daydream, but a desperate need that is at the very core of Shep's identity. Miller's performance explores every facet of Shriver's multilayered, flawed characters, such as Shep's wife, Glynis, who is an admirably tough, uncompromisingly honest survivor, but also stubborn, rude, and often selfish. A “must-listen.” A Harper hardcover. (Mar.)
Ron Charles
If Jodi Picoult has her finger on the zeitgeist, Shriver has her hands around its throat. Not only does her new book wrestle with actual laws and prices…but it reminds us just how politically argumentative a novel can be. Like Upton Sinclair, she forces us to look at how the sausage is made; if anything, So Much for That is even bloodier than The Jungle…I admire that what [Shriver's] done here is without a dose of sentimentality. Yes, it's gangling and pedantic and far, far too long, but its anger is infectious. If you can take the story's grisly details and Shriver's badgering insight into all things, this is the rare novel that will shake and change you. With these wholly realistic and sympathetic characters, she makes us consider the most existential questions of our lives and the dreadful calculus of modern health care in this country.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
[Shriver's] managed to take an idea for a kind of thesis novel and instead create a deeply affecting portrait of two marriages, two families, as cancer in one case and a rare, debilitating childhood condition in the other threaten to push their daily lives past their tipping points. Though there is one farcical plot development that is poorly woven into the emotional fabric of the story, and though some of the asides about health care feel shoehorned into the narrative, the author's understanding of her people is so intimate, so unsentimental that it lofts the novel over such bumpy passages, insinuating these characters permanently into the reader's imagination.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Shep Knacker believes in the "Afterlife" and has spent every moment of his adult life planning for it. But he's not a born-again Christian. Shep's version involves a hammock on a sandy beach in a Third World country where he and his wife, Glynis, can retire and live like royalty for dollars a day. Poised to set his dreams in motion, Shep learns that Glynis has cancer. Now every penny must go to medical expenses not covered by an inadequate health insurance policy. Shriver's (The Post-Birthday World) latest novel is both a realistic portrait of a family dealing with terminal illness and a thorough critique of the American health-care system. VERDICT Shriver's strong, clear writing is marred by several complex subplots and lengthy rants by Shep's best friend, Jackson, who is anti almost everything and dealing with a botched surgery himself as well as a daughter with an incurable disorder. Readers who prefer a more focused plot will want to stick with Jodi Picoult, but Shriver's fans and others willing to follow the author's turns will find themselves thinking about the novel long after they've finished it. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/09.]—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
Kirkus Reviews
The American health-care system decimates the emotions and finances of one well-meaning citizen in the latest novel by the provocative Shriver (The Post-Birthday World, 2007, etc.). We open with a bank-account figure: $731,778.56, which is how much 50-something Shep Knacker has squirreled away for retirement. That's a decent nest egg for a professional handyman like him, but he wants to make his savings let him live like a prince. To that end, he plans to move his family to Pemba, a tiny island off the coast of Zanzibar where his dollars will go much farther. But his wife, Glynis, is diagnosed with cancer, and the novel's grimly punning title encapsulates what follows: During the course of a year, Shep is forced to abandon his dream as Glynis' aggressive treatments drains his savings. Shriver is captivatingly, unflinchingly expert at exposing how families intuit and sometimes manipulate each other's personality tics, and the novel is at its finest when it shows the parrying between the put-upon Shep and Glynis, who remains a harridan even as her body is ravaged. It's shakier as a polemic against a health-care system that bankrupts families. Shriver embeds the outrage in Shep's friend and co-worker Jackson, who delivers jeremiads on how government and health-care corporations connive against the common man. (The book is mostly set in 2005, before Congress' healthcare reform efforts.) Metaphorically overstating the point that institutional greed affects individual vitality, the book also chronicles Jackson's botched penis-enlargement surgery, and that's just part of the piling-on: It also tracks the miseries of Jackson's ailing teenage daughter and Shep's rapidly declining father. Yet whilethis sometimes feels like an op-ed writ large, Shriver's skill at characterization is so solid that Jackson never becomes a plot device. And the ingenious, upbeat ending smartly shows just how far the rat race separates us from our better selves. An overly schematic but powerful study of both marriage and medical care. Author tour to Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.
Birmingham Post
“[Shriver] certainly has her finger on national nerves.”
The New Yorker
“[A] shrewd, ambitious novel. . . . Shriver’s prose is frank and often beautiful . . . nuanced and persuasive.”
Jocelyn McClurg
“A delicious novel. . . . So Much for That, Lionel Shriver’s improbably feel-good black comedy, is the rare book that can make suicide, near-bankruptcy and terminal cancer so engaging you can’t wait to turn the page. . . . Provocative, entertaining-and so very timely.”
Ella Taylor
“Shriver writes in precise, dynamic prose…. If anyone’s going to perk up the often-limp niceness of the women’s novel it’s Shriver, who has no use for earth mothers or noble victims…. The climax offers more fun, vengeful satisfaction and pure tenderness than any treatise on the future of healthcare.”
Cathi Hanauer
“[An] immaculate, hilarious, and authentically dark new novel. . . . A cast of characters as absurd and entertaining as they are real.”
Mary Pols
“Brave, bold. . . . A page turner. . . . Brilliantly funny and a superb plotter, Shriver is a master of the misanthrope. . . . [A] viciously smart writer.”
Leah Hager Cohen
“Neither stingy with subplots nor shy about taking on timely, complex issues, [Shriver] tosses plenty of both into the pot with real daring and brio.”
Julia Keller
“Harrowing yet riveting.... Wisely, Shriver doesn’t make her characters all saints.... [They] come alive with visceral abandon.... Clever, convincing...stubbornly real-and chillingly personal.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781423360995
Publisher:
Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
03/28/2010
Edition description:
Unabridged
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 5.50(h) x 1.70(d)

What People are saying about this

Ella Taylor
“Shriver writes in precise, dynamic prose…. If anyone’s going to perk up the often-limp niceness of the women’s novel it’s Shriver, who has no use for earth mothers or noble victims…. The climax offers more fun, vengeful satisfaction and pure tenderness than any treatise on the future of healthcare.”
Mary Pols
“Brave, bold. . . . A page turner. . . . Brilliantly funny and a superb plotter, Shriver is a master of the misanthrope. . . . [A] viciously smart writer.”
Michiko Kakutani
“A visceral and deeply affecting story, a story about how illness affects people’s relationships, and how their efforts to grapple with mortality reshape the arcs of their lives…. [Shriver’s] understanding of her people is so intimate, so unsentimental…it lofts these characters permanently into the reader’s imagination.”
Jocelyn McClurg
“A delicious novel. . . . So Much for That, Lionel Shriver’s improbably feel-good black comedy, is the rare book that can make suicide, near-bankruptcy and terminal cancer so engaging you can’t wait to turn the page. . . . Provocative, entertaining-and so very timely.”
Cathi Hanauer
“[An] immaculate, hilarious, and authentically dark new novel. . . . A cast of characters as absurd and entertaining as they are real.”
Leah Hager Cohen
“Neither stingy with subplots nor shy about taking on timely, complex issues, [Shriver] tosses plenty of both into the pot with real daring and brio.”
Ron Charles
“The rare novel that will shake and change you. With these wholly realistic and sympathetic characters, [Shriver] makes us consider the most existential questions of our lives and the dreadful calculus of modern health care in this country…. It’s a bitter pill, indeed, but take it if you can.”
Julia Keller
“Harrowing yet riveting.... Wisely, Shriver doesn’t make her characters all saints.... [They] come alive with visceral abandon.... Clever, convincing...stubbornly real-and chillingly personal.”

Meet the Author

Lionel Shriver's books include The Post-Birthday World, Game Control, and the Orange Prize-winning We Need to Talk About Kevin. She writes frequently for the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and The Independent. She lives in London.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Brooklyn, New York, and London, England
Date of Birth:
May 18, 1957
Place of Birth:
Gastonia, North Carolina
Education:
B.A., Barnard College of Columbia University, 1978; M.F.A. in Fiction Writing, Columbia University, 1982
Website:
http://www.talkaboutkevin.com

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So Much for That 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was 150 pages too long. I had to speed read. All of the social commentary was too much. The characters were well written and the plot good. I am going back to murder mysteries where the social commentary is subtle and not in your face, Lionel carbonneau, massachusetts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book taps into healthcare and of life care debates in a very real way, but stops from being too didactic because of the way the characters evolve. I find that I never really like the characters in Lionel Shriver's books and virtues are often exposed as flaws. The responsible, I always follow the rules character is revealed as a pushover, the stoic mother holding the family together as cold, unforgiving and out of touch. I think this is book makes a great springboard for discussion on the hot topics of the day but also makes you examine when a good quality tips the scale to become annoying. Shoudl we accept what life throws at us or fight back even thogh it makes people uncomfortable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to give this book a fair shot as it was a book club selection. And I tried. Characters are unlikable; story is depressing; the prose is wordy; the tone is often preachy or polemical. I enjoy thought provoking books, but this one flatlined.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful story about a very powerful subject. This author knows how to write and it was a privlege to read her book. Don't miss this one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," so was prepared to be wowed again. Unfortunately, the book didn't deliver for me. Jackson's never-ending prattle got on my nerves after a while. One speech would have sufficed. Moreover, I didn't get Shep's motivation. How could he go from getting ready to leave his wife to self-effacing doting husband? I didn't believe it. I will give Shriver another go because I thought "We Need to Take About Kevin" was that good. But I may wait a while.
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Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
"so much for that" by Lionel Shriver is a fictional book about serious matters. The book deals with the frustration and the unfairness of dealing with the US healthcare industry. Shep Knacker has worked hard all his life and pinched every penny to retire in an idyllic third world country where his money could last him forever. Glynis, Shep's wife, always found some excuse whey "now" is not the right time to go. Shep had had enough and he announces that he is leaving with or without Glynis. But Glynis found out she has cancer and Shep puts his plans aside while his bank account starts dropping like a stone. "so much for that" by Lionel Shriver a tough book to read because of the subject matter, however it is well written, interesting and hard to put down. Shep, the protagonist, has been saving money all his life in order to retire to a small African island named Pemba where the cost of living is minuscule, that is until his wife got cancer and Shep started to see his life savings of more then $800,000 dwindle away to nothing. And Shep has health insurance. Shep's best friend, Jackson who has his own sick daughter and is also working for health insurance. Jackson's world is divided between those who take (anyone who is on the government payroll in some form) and those who give (everyone who is not on the government's payroll but pay taxes). His political tirades were some of the interesting points in the book. Shep's life is full with "moochers" (those who take according to Jackson), his father, a minister, never saved enough to retire, his sister is self centered and expects him to bail her out by "loaning" her money. Shep's daughter is going to college, his son is in private high-school and Shep's wife got a low paying job because, during a fight, he told her she is not contributing. The minor characters are interesting but not very realistic - however they do make the point. This book hit me very personally on several levels. First, my father, who passed away in December, has cancer for the last two years of his life - which was a real harsh lesson on what "health coverage" really mean. My dad was a small business owner who paid boat loads of money, out of pocket, into the health care system and got very little in return (he didn't get sick often). Luckily he and my mom moved out of the house they lived in for almost 30 years and into a 55+ complex, which they paid cash - otherwise they would have lost their home. His medication cost $7,000 a month, his insurance paid 50%. Can you afford a $3,500 monthly bill for one type of medication? They basically had to show income of less than $1,000 a month in order to survive. This taught us a painful lesson - don't get sick unless you are very rich or very poor. Even with health insurance you are likely to go bankrupt, lose your personal fortune and everything you worked to acquire your whole life. Second, living in New Jersey, possibly the most corrupt state in the union where people who own their homes outright are being evicted because the preposterous property taxes - Jackson's diatribes hit a sore spot. We pay the highest personal taxes in the nation where 50% of them goes to somebody's pocket (corruption tax), 25% are wasted (as per the state's comptroller) and the other 25%, the money used to run the state, is still four times higher than other states. As you can tell, I truly enjoyed this book. It is very thought provoking and I highly rec
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Aunt_Pie More than 1 year ago
This book was a tough read, not because it is a 'bad' book but because of its subject -- a family dealing with cancer. As I read the book, it had the effect of making me so thankful for my friends and family. And revealing the main character's account balance at the beginning of many chapters has a shocking and sobering effect on the reader. These things really happen! But I had a problem getting into the story because the book contains a subplot whose culmination is just too strange to be believable, and the ending felt much too contrived. I'm not sure what type of reader this book is for, but this book did not pique my interest in other works by the author. Having never been in a book club, I don't know whether it would make a good book for discussion. Although I could see it prompting a lot of discussion, there are probably better books than this. In summary, while I admire the author for tackling such an unpleasant subject, the book did not live up to my expectations based on other reviews I had read, and I would not recommend it to others.
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