So Much for That

So Much for That

by Lionel Shriver

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“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061978494
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/09/2010
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 306,556
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Lionel Shriver's novels include The New Republic, So Much for That, The Post-Birthday World, and the international bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.


Brooklyn, New York, and London, England

Date of Birth:

May 18, 1957

Place of Birth:

Gastonia, North Carolina


B.A., Barnard College of Columbia University, 1978; M.F.A. in Fiction Writing, Columbia University, 1982

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.”

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.”

Mary Pols

“Brave, bold. . . . A page turner. . . . Brilliantly funny and a superb plotter, Shriver is a master of the misanthrope. . . . [A] viciously smart writer.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Customer Reviews

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So Much for That 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 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
morningwalker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Being familiar with this author's style of writing after reading "We Need to Talk about Kevin," I was a little hesitant to pick up another novel by her because, while I liked the story about Kevin, in my opinion, she took way too long to tell it . However, once again I was intrigued by the idea line of her story, and gave in to the urge to try it. Several times I found myself wanting to call it quits because there was so much redundancy to wade through. I ended up resorting to skimming passages and forging ahead because I had to find out how it ended. I¿m glad I stuck with it because in the end I liked the book, I would have loved it if it would have been less.
RickelleBr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I ended up loving this book, it did take me a while to get into it. Main reason? I found the characters so unlikeable. I couldn't sympathise with them at all and I think, from the subject matter, I was supposed to feel immense sympathy for them. After I got into the book a little more and got more caught up in the story, I cared less about liking the characters so little. "We Need to Talk about Kevin" is one of my favourite books and I love Shriver's style of writing, so that kept me going when the story dragged on a bit. The last 100 pages (or so) finally got me and I couldn't put the book down until I'd finished. The storyline was moving and it made me think about those who are going through this torment even now. I'd probably give this book 3.5 stars rather than 4 because it wasn't quite a 4-star book but it was better than a 3-star.
TooBusyReading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an incredibly depressing story! Shepherd Knacker and his wife, Glynis, have always lived frugally, splurging only on vacations to research where they will spend their Afterlife, life after retirement. As it became more a reality for Shep, it became more a pipe dream, an unrealistic indulgence for Glynis. Finally after amassing three-quarters of a million dollars by selling his business and becoming an employee, Shep is ready to move to remote Pemba and his wife and son are welcome to go with him or not, their choice. In remarkably bad timing, Glynis announces she has cancer, has been seeing doctors and keeping the secret from Shep, and needs his health insurance. Health insurance doesn't begin to cover the costs, eroding his careful planning. Glynis even blames Shep for the cancer, carrying home asbestos fibers when he was a handyman.Their best friends, Jackson and Carol, have a smart, surly, manipulative daughter with a horrible disease, familial dysautonomia, who refuses to be a cheerful poster child. Their younger daughter is healthy but demands unnecessary medicine and creates symptoms in a quest for some of the attention her sister gets, filling her emptiness with too much food.Most of the characters are abrasive and unlikeable. Shep takes too much responsibility for everyone around him, expecting nothing in return, and his martyrdom comes across as lack of backbone and character, even though his has both in his own way. He is, in Jackson's terms, one of the Mugs, the givers, instead of one of the Moochers, the takers, and a chump. While he may be fluid, like the water in the fountains he enjoys creating, he seems more wimpy than fluid. ¿Shep's plight clearly illustrated that there was no point to anything and there was no relationship between virtue and reward and there never had been.¿Glynis, even before her illness, seems hateful and self-absorbed, afraid to practice her art but denigrating her friend who creates what she considers inferior pieces. In another analogy to her art, she is as hard and shiny as the metal pieces she used to create. Carol is living through her daughter's illness. Jackson rants about the Mugs and the Mooches, about the poor state of health insurance, but doesn't get around to writing the book he imagines, only coming up with numerous titles. He feels, with his wife's help, that he is not really good enough for her and comes up with a disastrous plan to make himself better in her eyes.I started this book with an expectation of three stars, pretty standard unless it proved to be better or worse than I anticipated. It quickly moved to two or maybe two and a half stars. I felt sorry for some of the characters but I didn't like them or care about this as much as I wanted. The book occasionally bogged down with too much explanation or ranting or too much stilted dialogue. Jackson ¿reserved special contempt for accountants and lawyers, both of whom slyly implied that they were on your side, when this bloated, parasitic caste of interlocutors effectively constituted a penumbral extension of the State, their extortionate fees amounting to more taxes.¿ It doesn't take much of that for me to really not enjoy a book.So, I really did not like this book until the last 50 or so pages, out of about 425. Those pages caused me to be glad I had slogged through so much depression and frustration, and brought the book back to a solid 3-star rating.
GCPLreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Granted, going in I was already a fan of Lionel Shriver, a true wordsmith, whose two previous novels blew me away. So it's no surprise that I found her new novel to be an emotional powerhouse. This novel is a topical, important indictment of the US healthcare system. Shep Knacker finds out what a human life is worth, literally in cash, as he spends his life's savings and loses his dream of "the Afterlife" (early retirement on a secluded tropical island) to fight his wife's battle with cancer. Though parts come across as rather didactic, the characters and the story ring true. brilliant title, brilliant author -- highly recommended
jovilla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shep Knacker is a handyman in New York City with a dream of moving to a tropical island and giving up all the cares of the big city life. To this end he has been scrimping and saving all his life, keeping his money in an investment account, waiting for the day when he could go, with or without his beloved wife Glynis and their son. However a diagnosis of cancer for Glynis changes everything as well as health problems for Shep's elderly father and also his best friend and fellow handyman Jackson.This book is a commentary on the American medical care system and the failings of medical insurance.After finishing it, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The themes of illness and lack of adequate and compassionate care would seem to be a downer. Shep is a very wise man so the end of the book is definitely on a positive note. I recommend this book highly.
SugarCreekRanch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So Much For That is the story of the best-laid plans, changing. Shep has been saving all of his working life for his "after-life", an early retirement in a country with a lower cost of living. Then his wife Glynnis is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and "so much for that". The novel is very much about government, health care, and insurance. One character in particular is prone to long diatribes about these issues. It got a little too preachy for me. But I did enjoy the storyline and most of the characters.
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Shep is a man with a plan. His investment account has finally rebounded, and he¿s going to quit his crappy job and retire to Africa, where he can do what he want and his dollar will last. His wife, Glynnis, probably doesn¿t want to go, but he¿s ready to take that chance and move on without her. Unfortunately, she has news of her own ¿ she has cancer. Mesothelioma, to be exact. A particularly virulent cancer that his job as a handyman could have contributed to. So he puts his dream of his 'After-Life' away, and keeps his job so she can use his health insurance, in the process becoming more selfless than he ever believed he could be.Healthcare and who pays for it is a large part of this story, but it¿s also about givers and takers, and friendships, and love. Besides Glynnis¿s illness, we also learn about Shep¿s best friend Jackson, who has a child, Flicka, with a debilitating genetic disease and Shep¿s father, whose fall down the stairs results in him living in a nursing home. Jackson also has a bit of a healthcare crisis of his own, though it is largely of his own doing. Parts of the book are hard to read, especially as Glynnis¿s sickness worsens. But it¿s not all bad. There are some especially sweet moments, like when Glynnis and Shep¿s son would come home from school every day to lay on his mother¿s bed with her and hold her hand while they watch TV, or when Glynnis and Flicka commiserate, the only two people in their lives who know how and what they feel. Shriver likes to surprise us, and this book is no exception. Her surprise marks a turning point. It¿s like the negative force of the novel dissipates enough to give us a happy ending, of sorts. In the end, Shep is a man we can be proud of. The book does get a little bit preachy at times, but I think it¿s possible to put your personal politics aside and enjoy the tale.
pennwriter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On page 367 of the hardback edition, there is this line: "It would be fair to say that Shepherd Armstrong Knacker re-entered the living room a changed man."Up until then, the book is a nasty screed. The rotten US healthcare system (Shep's wife Glynis is dying of cancer). Glynis's rotten family. Shep's rotten boss. Shep's rotten job. Shep's rotten sister. Shep's best friend Jackson delivers long rants about being a middle class chump in America. One of Jackson's daughters, Flicka, has a fatal genetic disorder. Comfort is rejected. Spirituality of any kind is sneered at.But by page 367, Shep is fed up. He decides to escape to an Africa island named Pemba with his dying wife, his teenage son, his aged father, and the remains of his best friend's family. This was his dream from the start. The book's tone softens. Pemba is seen as in travelogue footage, all soft-toned prettiness. This African Brigadoon is the answer to everyone's problems. Insofar as the book is about the glorious pursuit of folly, it is likable. Start on page 367.
Jenners26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONBook DescriptionShep Knacker has spent most of his adult life preparing for "The Afterlife"¿his shorthand for early retirement in a Third World country where his nest egg will last longer. Numerous research trips with his wife Glynis have narrowed down the options to an island off the coast of Africa. Yet Glynis always finsa one reason or another to delay The Afterlife. Impatient to pull the trigger (after all, he sold his handyman company for $1 million a few years back and has been miserably slaving away for the asshat new owner since then), Shep decides he is ready to start enjoying The Afterlife NOW¿even if that means going without Glynis and their teenage son Zack. With one-way tickets in hand, Shep girds himself to do battle with Glynis to convince her that he isn't willing to wait any longer, that The Afterlife must begin now. However, it turns out that Glynis has news of her own¿she's been diagnosed with a rare but deadly form of cancer called peritoneal mesothelioma. What can a good husband do? Of course, Shep delays The Afterlife. Yet as the months tick by and the balance of his retirement account dwindles steadily due to mounting medical bills, Shep begins to realize that The Afterlife might never be in his grasp.My ThoughtsYou just never know what you are going to get with a Lionel Shriver book. After thrilling to the parallel universes in The Post-Birthday World and feeling depressed and disturbed after her stunning We Need To Talk About Kevin, I signed up for her latest book without hesitation. I so wish I'd listened to the reviews I'd read beforehand that said that the book felt more like a diatribe against the U.S. health-care system than a novel as So Much For That was a bit of a slog.Shep's best friend, Jackson, takes on the role of pissed-off ranter¿launching on these epic rants about Mooches and Mugs (his favorite term for all the corrupt asshats who are sticking it to us idiots). These rants quickly grew tiresome, and I felt that Shriver let Jackson run on way too long. In addition, I thought the ending was unrealistic and uncharacteristic of Shriver. I honestly couldn't believe how she ended the book. If there was ever a book made for an unhappy ending, this was it. Yet Shriver turned everything on its head and gave these very unlikable characters an almost fairytale ending that just didn't jibe with the rest of the book. (Well, except for Jackson.)That being said, Shriver is still is darn good writer. Her focus on little details and her way with words made this book tolerable. However, her writing skills often created vivid and graphic scenes that were almost too much for me to handle. At one point, when Shriver described some bodily functions plaguing Glynis, I felt my stomach turning with nausea. In addition, a subplot with Jackson's botched surgery contained one too many graphic descriptions that almost turned me off of intimate relations forever. Let's just say this: you'll never look at an "Enlarge Your Penis" spam e-mails the same way again.In the end, this book felt more like Shriver communicating an agenda rather than writing a novel. Still, the lady (yes ... Lionel Shriver is a woman ... it threw me off the first time I read her books) can write and that saved this from being a complete turn-off ... but just barely.About the Narration: I thought Dan John Miller did an excellent job narrating what must have been a difficult and long read. His voice was gripping, and I didn't mind spending more than 17 hours listening to him. In fact, his narration may have kept me in the book longer than if I had read it in print. (I definitely would have skipped over almost any Jackson rant in the print version.) In addition, Miller created different voices for each character, including Shep, Glynis, Jackson and Jackson's disabled daughter Flicka. (I'll confess, when I first heard his voice for Flicka, it was a real turn-off and almost seemed like a parody. Yet, as I list
horomnizon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read about this in a review somewhere and thought I'd give it a try, even though it was a good bit different than my normal fare. It was a slow read for me, but I really enjoyed it. The characters were believable and interesting and while there were parts where I wished for more conversation to move things along a bit, the philosophical diatribes did make me think. Shepherd has always been the responsible one, while saving money to spend his retirement, aka "the afterlife", in remote part of the world where his American money would last a lot longer. His wife, Glynnis, has always resisted for one reason or another (often the kids) and now when he says he's going with or without her, she tells him he can't, because she needs his health insurance. She has cancer - mesothelioma - and the treatments will be expensive. But, hey, he has all that money saved up anyway, so there's no reason not to give her the best chance.Along for the ride is Shep's best friend Jackson and his wife Carol, who have their own problems - plenty of them, including a teenage daughter with a rare disease. Jackson believes that Shep is what he calls a 'Mug'. One of the fools who pays his taxes and obeys the laws and let's the 'Mooches' who live off government aid and through doing just the opposite - taking and never giving. Jackson's rants take up a good bit of the first half of the book, and like others, I'd say that once you get through that, the story picks up and while his opinions are still evident, I felt they were easier to take once there was more of a plot.The concept of death - that Glynnis might not recover from her cancer - is something that everybody except Glynnis is aware of. They feel awkward around her - she hates them for that. Shep serves her and does all he can for her - which drives her nuts. Their relationship throughout her illness evolves in a way that is fascinating to follow. While I can see that some people might find the ending a little too predictable, I thought it was quite fitting and didn't feel it betrayed the rest of the book at all. The whole story felt real - like it could have been a memoir and not just a novel. Really interesting....somewhat scary, but definitely thought-provoking in a good way.
phebj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a tough book to read because of the subject matter--serious illness and the frustrations of dealing with the US health care industry--and that also makes it a difficult book to evaluate. I went from liking it to disliking it and finally to being totally engrossed in it.The main characters are two friends and co-workers, Sheperd and Jackson. Even though they both hate their boss, they¿re terrified of losing their jobs because they need their health insurance to take care of family members who are seriously ill. Shep¿s wife has a rare form of cancer and Jackson¿s daughter has a rare genetic disorder. If that isn¿t enough heartache, Shep also ends up having to take care of his aging father and Jackson has to deal with the results of a botched plastic surgery. Richard often talks about depressing books as ¿four hankies and a pistol¿ reads. This one could easily be described as ¿four pistols and a hankie.¿I stuck with it because I like Lionel Shriver so much as a writer and have loved two of her previous books (We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post Birthday World). This one started out well but then, from about pages 75-175, the character of Jackson spent an inordinate amount of time raving about health care, taxes, education and just generally about being a victim. He sees everything in terms of ¿the takers vs the taken¿ and Shriver has him go on ranting for pages at a time. When this finally tapered off, I got back into the story and the book became a page turner. Spoiler Alert--> Despite all the depressing aspects of the book, it actually ends pretty well so there is a payoff for sticking with it. If you could ever convince a book group to read this, it would make for a great discussion. Two of the things that really made an impression on me were (1) the discussion of the military type of language doctors use with patients undergoing chemotherapy (being a "trouper," the "battle" against cancer) which has the unintended consequence of making the patient feel like a failure if the treatments don¿t work or they want to give up, and (2) how few family members or friends follow through on their offers to help when someone is seriously ill. The other big elephant in the room is the whole discussion of just what a human life is worth.I could go on about all the issues this book raises but I¿ll stop. If you think you¿re interested in reading this, I¿d take it out of the library because unless you have a stomach for depressing books, it may not be something you can finish. Despite my reservations about the book (the subject matter and the character of Jackson, in particular), I am glad I read it.
LisaDunckley More than 1 year ago
Engrossing and thought provoking, the book starts out gently, but everything gradually snowballs to the climax. For much of the book, the characters are frustrated (each person in a different way), things get worse and worse. Every hope, every dream, everything seems to dwindle. The book is very interesting, hard to put down in fact—but was kind of depressing. Shep Knacker is a well written character, a handyman who not only built up a thriving handyman business, but is also the man who takes care of everyone and everything in his private life. His wife, his children, his wife's family, his sister, his father, neighbors—everyone comes to Shep and every time he steps up to the plate and fixes it or pays for it or whatever is needed. He spent his adult life planning to get out of the rat race and sold his house and his business and saved over a million dollars for him and his wife to get away from it all and live in some other country where they can live like kings on a small amount of American dollars. When he finally stops waiting and buys the plane tickets, his wife reveals that she has cancer. Shep once again puts his plans on hold, and starts taking care of everybody and paying for everything—again. With each chapter, his nest egg dwindles, as does the health of his wife. However, at almost the last moment, our hero Shep pulls everything out of the toilet, lol. While the buildup through most of the book is frustrating (even aggravating), wow, does it ever have a strong finish!! Very satisfying ending, and I was left feeling very happy and fulfilled. So glad I read this book! Oddly, this was very different from the first book I read by Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is still one of the most disturbing and creepy books I have ever read. Much more satisfying ending with So Much For That.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, this book is long, and yes, it gets a little preachy. But, some tough topics of todaynare touched on: immigration, the welfare state, the sometimes debilitating costs if health care, and our current methods of treating terminal illnesses. Sounds like an incredible downer, but the characters are unique and the entire premise of Shep's plan is fascinating. Loved the ending; laughed outloud!
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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