[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
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
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
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.
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.)
[A] shrewd, ambitious novel. . . . Shriver’s prose is frank and often beautiful . . . nuanced and persuasive.
[Shriver] certainly has her finger on national nerves.
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.
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.
[An] immaculate, hilarious, and authentically dark new novel. . . . A cast of characters as absurd and entertaining as they are real.
Brave, bold. . . . A page turner. . . . Brilliantly funny and a superb plotter, Shriver is a master of the misanthrope. . . . [A] viciously smart writer.
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.
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.