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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

Aristophanes' “Lysistrata” serves as the center but not really the source of Meg Wolitzer's new novel “The Uncoupling.” For those who need a refresher on the ancient comedy, the eponymous Lysistrata convinces the women of Greece to withhold sex from men until they end the Peloponnesian War. The play is rather bawdy to say the least, which was one thing that bothered me about Wolitzer's book – no high school would perform this play. That's not really the point though, is it?

In “The Uncoupling” a high school in Stellar Plains, New Jersey does indeed perform “Lysistrata” to curious effect. The play casts a spell over the town, from lusty teenagers to bored middleagers, all of the women turn their backs on sexual activity to the general bemusement of their partners. It's funny and sometimes sad. I kept going back and forth with this novel: did I like it? Did I not?

The more I think about it the more I realize I did enjoy it. The writing is really great and moves quickly plus I like and believe in most of the characters. However, what I like most about the book is that I am still thinking about it. Wolitzer uses a clever story and loads of wit to delve into the reality of relationships at many levels. We see new love, dying love, stable love, and just plain lust dissected once the spell takes hold of the town. Whether or not I agree with Wolitzer about the importance of sex in these relationships (in every instance once the sex ends the relationship comes to a standstill – my biggest beef with the book) is not really the point. “The Uncoupling” made me think about relationships, how we treat our partners, and the value of joined lives.

A book that gives me pause to evaluate my life? That's a winner. Not to mention the fact that Meg Wolitzer is a good writer and this is an interesting, funny, and entertaining read. I would definitely recommend you try this one.

Advance Reading Copy reviewed from Riverhead Books

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