The basics: At a seemingly normal high school in New Jersey, the new drama teacher picks Lysistrata as the high school play. In the play, the women of ancient Greece stop having sex to protest the ongoing civil war. In Stellar Plains, women mysteriously lose the desire to have sex with the men in their lives.
My thoughts: I was laughing out loud from the very first pages of this novel. Wolitzer manages to make the reader laugh without actually making fun of her characters. In her description of the Langs, the happily married couple who both teach at Stellar Plains, she says "even their pop quizzes were humane." The Langs continued to delight, as Wolitzer revealed the two chose the last name Lang:
"They were casting off their old families, their old lives; why not cast off their names, too? 'Lang' was decided upon in the middle of the night. It was a neutral, appealing name: the single syllable seemed easygoing, much the way they imagine themselves. They free-associated to various good-sounding 'lang' words: 'lan-guid,' 'language,' even 'langoustines,' those tiny lobsters they both loved and had eaten by the bucket that summer.The satirical wisdom is utterly engaging. As magical realism enters the story, it works quite well with the satire. I sometimes struggle with magical realism (Swamplandia! comes to mind)
I read this novel quickly, but it wasn't because of my eagerness to see what would happen. I was so engaged with Wolitzer's satire, I simply wanted to read more of her observations on modern love and language:
"'Going the distance' seemed a good way to think of what it would be like. It--sex, actual sex--created a distance between you and everyone except the other person."
"But the one who loved less--or acted as if they did--was always in charge, and that was the way the world went."I was loving every word and scene of this novel. It's smart, funny, wise and compelling. It was on its way to being a five-star read (the second in a row for me!) In the end, it stopped short of 5-stars because the novel itself failed to stop short. I am not a reader who needs my novels tied up in neat little packages. I enjoy ambiguity in an ending (granted, I also enjoy a shocking ending leaving no room for interpretation.) The Uncoupling was a brilliant satire, and I don't think the ending Wolitzer gave it suits the novel.
The Uncoupling is a very different novel than The Ten-Year Nap, and I loved both for quite different reasons. On an incredibly personal level, I enjoyed The Ten-Year Nap more. After seeing the diversity in her characters, ideas and setting, I'm even more intrigued to read more of her novels.
Favorite passage: "There was no way to know, thought Dory. You bumped stupidly ahead through life, and you couldn't know if starring in a play, or sleeping with someone, or marrying someone, or picking a particular college, or even taking a walk down the street, was going to lead to happiness or sorrow."
The verdict: The Uncoupling is 95% awesome, but the ending derailed my enjoyment just a bit. Overall, I still loved it and would recommend it to almost anyone.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: a delightful and fast 288 pages
Publication date: April 5, 2011
Source: I received a copy from the publisher for review via TLC Book Tours
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