“Shriver has a gift for creating real and complicated characters… A highly engrossing novel.” — San Francisco Chronicle From New York Times bestselling author Lionel Shriver (The Post-Birthday World, We Need to Talk About Kevin), comes a searing, deeply humane novel about a crumbling marriage resurrected in the face of illness, and a family’s struggle to come to terms with disease, dying, and the obscene cost of medical care in modern America.
A risk taker with a protean imagination, Shriver (The Post-Birthday World) has produced another dazzling, provocative novel, a witty and timely exploration of the failure of our health-care system. Shep Knacker's long-cherished plan to use the million dollars from the sale of his handyman business to retire to a tropical island receives a gut-wrenching blow when his wife, Glynis, is diagnosed with a rare cancer. Transformed into a full-time caregiver, the good-natured Shep is buoyed during the illness of self-centered, vindictive, and obnoxiously demanding Glynis by his working mate and best friend, Jackson Burdina, whose teenage daughter, Flicka, also has a terminal disease. Ironically, Glynis tenaciously clings to life, while Flicka, with whom she bonds, wants to end hers. Jackson, meanwhile, acutely conscious that he's going broke, rails pungently against government regulations and the insurance industry. A mouthpiece for the plight of middle-class workers, Jackson's diatribes about contemporary society the medical, educational and banking systems, exorbitant taxation, political chicanery ring painfully true. As Shep's Merrill-Lynch account dwindles and further medical calamities arise, Shriver twists the plot to raise suspense until the heart-lifting denouement.
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Timely topic, brilliant writing
Shriver dishes up timely novel tackling the ever-rising costs of healthcare that can easily wipe out a life's savings even of the comfortable. All this is presented in an eminently readable package where the main characters, two couples with their respective kids, pretty much cover the spectrum of opinions. What made this book special for me was not only the story itself, about people's lifelong dreams dashed (but not quite) by illness and how they cope with it all, but Shriver's brilliant writing that is simply a treat.
Could not finish this book
I never became attached to the chracaters and could not wait to be done with this book. I ended up skimming it and never felt compelled to really delve into it. Mind you, this was after reading easily one third of the book before caving in. Then, having read the last few chapters, what happens with all these characters made me even angrier. Totally implausible and ridiculous. If you are looking for an engaging novel which thoughtfully addresses the issues we face as a society regarding making a marriage work and the travesty that is our health care system, keep looking.