Widely acclaimed and nominated for the National Book Award of 2010, this book has the customary trappings of a great book- incredible control of language, grammar, vocabulary, and the rest. The setting is keenly evocative, no matter her focus, and the feeling of the events of the book is deftly captured and held between lines of captivatingly spun text. Shepherd Knacker has always been fascinated by the prospect of living a luxurious life in a third world country for next to no money. Having sold his company for a million dollars, and raring to go to Pemba, Tanzania, he is held back by a declaration from his wife, Glynis. She has mesothelioma, a rare but serious form of cancer resulting from asbestos exposure. The rest of the book follows their dual struggles with the cancer, with the health care system, and with their "friends" and their friends. As the cancer progresses, Shep starts losing the money he carefully put away for Pemba, Glynis starts losing the friends she always held close, and their real friends deal with their own problems.
Shriver writes with a graphic, frank style that's refreshing and cynical. From time to time, though, she disgusted me with horribly explicit imagery and graphic descriptions. Also, although the book has a surprising ending, what really surprised me wasn't the promised "happy ending" or the careful conclusion of a masterpiece- what surprised me was that it completely fell apart. Shriver seems to have forgotten she was writing a novel, and tied it off with a botched and haphazard attempt to reintroduce some gravity into the situation. As a result, the book left me with a sour taste in my mouth. The first three quarters were good, though!
Final grade: 3.5