Just because I’m not writing about books here for the moment, that doesn’t mean I’ve completely forsaken them! On Tuesday I got together with some of the wonderful women who work over at BookPage and sat down for a podcast in which we discussed Lionel Shriver’s most recent novel, So Much For That. It was a vibrant and spirited discussion, which really helped to remind me why it is I started this blog in the first place: so that I could connect with others who are passionate about reading. As much as reading can be a solitary activity, I think the best books are the ones that get us thinking and talking and ultimately connecting with others. Not all of us responded to Shriver’s latest work in the same way (I may have been a contrarian for much of this podcast… as in life), but it was still a really thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, and yes it was a lot of fun! If you’d like to hear four passionate readers take off their gloves and throw down, you could do no better than listen to our discussion! I won’t spill the beans and say whether or not I actually liked this book… you’ll just have to listen to find out. [And really, it's the first question we answer, so you don't really have to listen for very long if you don't want to... I encourage you to listen to at least the first 5 minutes of the podcast for not just the answer to this very important question but also to listen to the awesome "Pemba" music at the start! ]
Ok, I know not all of you have 50 minutes to spare listening to strangers gab about books so for those of you, I offer this brief summary of my feelings on the novel (but it’s not the same as hearing me vociferously proclaim them, so just know you are missing out! ): I don’t regret reading it, but I had significant issues with the book and am not entirely certain it completely works as a novel. My main issue with the book is that I felt it was more of a vehicle for Shriver to get up on a soapbox about the current American healthcare system and too often sacrificed the fictional story as a result. I had the same issue with Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, so I guess I just don’t like it when authors get preachy. I think you can still convey there are huge issues with the healthcare system without being so deliberate and obvious about it, and I often wished she had just written an op ed piece for a newspaper and saved 450+ pages of paper.
That said, it’s certainly a provocative book that, like all of Shriver’s novels, demands that you respond and have an opinion, so it certainly wasn’t a complete failure and I did get something out of the reading of it. I just ultimately felt that given how clever Shriver is, I think she is capable of writing a smarter novel than this wound up being.
I could say more, but I think that was my biggest issue with the book. But of course, if you listen to the podcast, you will hear others disagree vehemently with me on my reaction to the novel (don’t worry – we all left as friends!), so your mileage may vary! Rating wise, I give SMFT a whopping 3 out of 5.