Friday, November 18, 2011

So Much For That

I decided to try another Lionel Shriver book after The Post Birthday World.

I was not disappointed.

Shep, age 48, has always planned for his Afterlife. That is, he has spent his whole life saving in order to retire early to a Third World Nation, where he will be able to live comfortably for the remainder of his life, on much less money than it currently costs in New York.

On the day he finally decides to go, with or without his family, his wife Glynis announces she has mesothelioma (cancer) and he cannot leave, for she needs his health insurance.

As her cancer progresses and various treatments are attempted, we see Shep caring for his wife, all the while watching his life savings disappear.

While some might say, "what value can you place on human life?", when you live in a world where all treatments cost money, and some exorbitantly so, it is a real question when everyone only has a finite amount of money.

It is a dark and harsh book, not only due to the subject matter, but because of the characters Shriver has created. Shep's best friend Jackson constantly bemoans his life. Glynis is often bitter and nasty. Their extended family are awful, including the standard over-the-top portrayal of Christians. (I do get the feeling the Shriver is pretty anti-Christian).

Having said that, I liked it. It was real. It didn't skirt around hard relationships or death. I like her insights into many aspects of life. I came away absolutely thrilled we don't live in the US and our health system is not the same.

In the end though, what is striking about this book is what it shows about people that have no hope. If you have no hope of heaven, this life is all there is. Therefore, extending this life for as long as possible, no matter how sick you are, is crucial. At the same time, enjoying every minute you can for yourself is very important, because that's all you have to live for. When your idea of the 'Afterlife' is living cheap in Africa, you really have no idea how good the real afterlife will be.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I liked this book too - after Kevin (which I loved) I was a bit nervous. But it was confronting and the reality of facing a death with no hope was scary.