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Monday, May 30, 2011

The Uncoupling

The Uncoupling
Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead Books, 2011

When the new drama teacher at Stellar Plains High School chooses a classic for the next school play, a strange metaphysical force seems to be at work among all the women of the town. The play, Lysistrata by Aristophanes, is a story in which the women in a community stop having sex with the men in order to end a long war. As soon as the play is announced, the women in Steller Plains start to feel strange, one by one. Soon all the perfectly normal women and teenage girls have turned away from their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom, for reasons they don't really understand. As the women worry over their loss of passion, and the men become by turns unhappy, offended, and above all, confused, both sides are forced to look at their relationships in a new way.

If you like a bit of magical realism mixed with your literary fiction, then you may really like this book. It reminded me of many of Alice Hoffman’s books because of the similar way a small unexplained event becomes a catalyst for an upheaval of some kind. In this novel, this unexplained event may be the play, or it may be the drama teacher, or it may just be a soft wind that blows in each woman’s window as she lies in bed at night. It is sad, in a way, to see all the relationships erode when couples don’t have the intimacy that sex brings, and it reminds the reader that a good marriage is really a miraculous and wondrous thing.

That being said, I was not enamored of this book and found the magical event to be a plot device of an annoying and distracting nature. I found the characters to be far more interesting than the plot and would have liked to see how they lived and loved each other under different circumstances. Perhaps some of them will show up in another novel without the benefit of a drama teacher’s unfair influence so we can see how they would behave in more normal situations.


Other novels by this author:
The Wife (2003)
The Position (2005)
The Ten Year Nap (2008)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley (2007)
In the wake of the 2003 Academy Awards, a group of friends and family gathers in the Hollywood hills for ten transformative days of love, memories, gossip, movies, and more, including Max, an Oscar-winning writer/director whose career is waning; his lover Elena; his ex-wife, film star Zoe Cunningham; their daughter Isabel; and others.

The Humbling by Philip Roth (2009)
Presents the story of Simon Axler--an actor in his sixties who has lost his wife, his audience, and confidence in his talent--whose risky and aberrant desire points toward a dark and shocking end.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (2007)
On their wedding day, a young couple--Florence, daughter of an Oxford academic and a successful businessman, and Edward, an earnest history student with little experience of women--looks forward to the future while worrying about their upcoming wedding night.

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