Wednesday, March 09, 2011

THE UNCOUPLING by Meg Wolitzer

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I really enjoyed Wolitzer's TEN YEAR NAP so I was really excited to hear that her newest book was a modern-day version of LYSISTRATA.  A sleepy New Jersey town is thrown into disarray after a new drama teacher comes to town and beings staging a high school version of the Greek tale of LYSISTRATA.  In the classic tale, the women of Sparta withhold sex from their men in order to stop a long-standing war. In Wolitzer's version, the women within the high school community are overcome by a "spell" that causes them to lose all desire for sex.  This affects everyone from Dory Lang, a popular teacher in a solid marriage, to Leanne Bannerjee, the school psychologist currently dating three men, to the teenage girls of the school. The effects of this unintentional sexual strike have far-reaching consequences within this little community.

Wolitzer came up with such a great premise but it just didn't work.  Instead of being edgy and humorous, it came off as sad.  The women of ancient Greece voluntarily chose to give up sex in order to achieve an important goal.  The women in New Jersey lost their sexual desire against their will and, more importantly, all forms of intimacy with their men. One women even loses the desire to be caressed by her young sons which absolutely broke my heart. The whole town is made absolutely miserable and for no noble reason that I can see.  When Wolitzer finally reveals what is happening to this town, it feels contrived and ridiculous. The experience created pain where there was none before and the solution cannot be so tidily achieved as Wolitzer would have us believe.  The story plods along and the characters aren't really that interesting with a few exceptions.  It could have been so much better!!!
BOTTOM LINE: NOT recommended.  This book held so much promise but ended up being both boring and ridiculous. Instead of a humorous look at sex and relationships, Wolitzer gives us a tragedy. The ending is especially silly and disappointing.

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