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The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
2011
general fiction
288 pages

I have written and deleted about five times now in my futile attempts to write a review for this book. I read The Position by the author when it first came out and enjoyed its unique spin on family drama; however, this particular book left something to be desired.

At Elro (Eleanor Roosevelt High School), a run-of-the-mill suburban high school in New Jersey, a new drama teacher arrives to direct the school's play for the year: Lysistrata. In this play by Aristophanes the women of Greece withhold sex from the men as a way to end war, and the women of Stellar Plains begin to experience a similar effect, not only losing interest in their men, but becoming repulsed and disgusted by the thought of intimacy with their men.

On a positive note, I thought Wolitzer's descriptions of suburban U.S.A were spot-on and candid along with her take on the high school atmosphere in Stellar Plains. As a teacher and resident of a town that could be a neighboring city to Stellar Plains, I related to many of her details...The Cumfy (a take on the Snuggie), Farrest (a virtual world in which avatars replace face-to-face communication), life in the teachers' lounge - great takes on life in 2011. I loved this. She does a wonderful job with the little details. Many readers complained about her characterization, but I found everyone's role in the book to be perfect, especially that of the Langs, the beloved English teachers whose marriage begins to dissolve into monotony and bitterness.

On a negative note, the entire premise just did NOT work for me. I ignored all of the reviews and ratings on goodreads to just page-turn, form my own opinions, and look forward to seeing what other readers had to say upon concluding the novel. The idea of women losing interest in sexual relations and intimacy with a man was a good suburban topic, and its tie-in to the school production of Lysistrata imaginative (although I don't really know many high schools that would allow its performance), BUT the description of the "spell" that weaves its way through the town was really off-putting because it was a jarring shake of the magical in a book that contained nothing else of this nature. Don't get me wrong. I am a big fan of magical realism, it's just that there was NOTHING else magical going on so it seemed entirely out of place.

I wavered between a 2 and a 4 star rating, to 3 seemed to be the way to go.

If you've been curious, I won't deter you from checking this one out, BUT there are much better books out right now I would recommend over this one.

 
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Still Alice by Lisa Genova
2007
general fiction
292 pages

***Recommended Reading***
***Recommended Book Club Selection***

Initial Review:
After reading countless five-star reviews from my book group friends, I knew it was time to pick this one up to read at the local library.

I devoured this book in one sitting, tears streaming down my face, as I read about Alice Howland experiencing her life changing due to Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease. Once a brilliant professor at Harvard, Alice is faced with the realization that everything she knew is spiraling away from her and she cannot do anything to prevent her brain, once capable and revered by others, from deteriorating because of this horrible illness. Reading the scenes with her husband, torn between love for his wife and terror for what will be her future, were so unbelievably heartbreaking I found myself reaching for my pajama sleeve more than once. (I didn't even want to get up to get tissue!)

The writing in this book is near-perfect, and Genova's words will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Alice Howland is a character who will remain in my literary memory bank probably forever.

My Posting in My Book Group Thread:

As I mentioned in another thread, I tore through Still Alice in one sitting this week. The topic of Alzheimer's Disease is something too many of us can relate to (even if not in our immediate circle) and I think everyone can agree it is a truly horrible and heartbreaking illness. Early Onset Alzheimer's, which can appear in your 40s, takes that horror to another level because these patients are healthy in other ways which causes them to live with the illness for much longer.

I cried my eyes out throughout most of the book. Tears just streamed down my face as I turned pages and became more intense with certain scenes. Don't let this deter you from reading, though. This is undoubtedly one of the best books I have ever read and the writing is almost perfect in how Genova weaves the character of Alice. She takes you right into Alice's brain and its deterioration. Wow.