THE UNCOUPLING by Meg Wolitzer

Book Quote:

“A formidable wind seemed to have flown in through the half-inch of open window, but had then immediately found its way under the duvet…”

Book Review:

Review by Betsey Van Horn  (APR 5, 2011)

Once upon a time…no. On a dark and stormy night…wait–there was no storm. Long ago and far away…but, it was only a few years ago, and not far if you live in suburban New Jersey. So, one dark and December night in the safe and tidy suburb of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, an arctic chill seeped under doors, a frigid blast blew through windows, and a glacial nipping swirled between the sheets of spouses and lovers. And, just as suddenly, the woman turned from their men, and stopped having sex.

A spell had been cast, unbeknownst to the enchanted. Married woman turned in disgust from their husbands, and teen girls recoiled from their pimply boyfriends. The town was in chaos, but nobody was talking.

At the start of the new school year, the new bohemian and canny drama teacher, Fran Heller, had come to teach at Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Elro), where much of the action takes place. She was staging a production of Lysistrata, the ancient Greek play written by Aristophanes. And, in case you aren’t familiar with it, it is about an entire city of woman that resolves to stop having sex with their men in order to end the Peloponnesian War. That includes their favorite position—The Lioness on The Cheese Grater. Yeah, think about it! This extraordinary mission inflames the battle between the sexes in Athens, just as the suburban spell provokes a war between the mates in Stellar Plains.

Dory and Robby Lang, the central couple of the book, are spirited English teachers at Elro with a high approval rating with students. Until this spell, the Langs had a youthful vigor and robust sex life. Their sophomore daughter Willa, who Dory has deemed “conventional” (average), had found first love with Eli, the drama teacher’s son. But things are now frigid in the soundless fury of their house. Only their old lazy dog lingers to lick himself clean.

The Nordic, big-boned gym teacher, Ruth, had a largely healthy sex life with her sculptor husband—as active as one can expect with twin toddlers and an infant—all boys. She was not immune from the “enchantment,” either. Then there is Bev, a stout and menopausal woman with her hedge fund husband, Ed, who had said some cruel things to her not long ago. The spell has her in its grip, and she is fighting back frisky.

Does Leanne Bannerjee, the hot school psychologist, go on an icy sex strike when the wind chill factor blows her way? She has three boyfriends and a love life that rivals her students.

Wolitzer’s prose is gusty and cinematic, immaculate from start to finish, with well-considered, write-‘em-down one-liners and irrepressible, lucid characters. The voice and style are similar to Tom Perotta, but with a more whimsical moral thrust. The spell’s chaos must reach some conclusion, and this is where the reader enjoys sliding into the ice.

This is a domestic comedy/drama with some acid moments, some poignant insights, and a sprinkling of the psychology of love, coupling, and married life. To enjoy this book, it helps to be flexible about a few unrealistic elements present in a contemporary, earth-bound setting.

This is warm Wolitzer on ice, with a few Mazurkas and a double lutz finale. She did employ a risky contrivance, but it was an active choice, not a slack trick of the pen. Along the way, she demonstrates fine regard to our tech-savvy, digitally addicted society. A delicious sorbet book, this is sly chick-lit that pricks—and puts a spell on you.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-3-0from 66 readers
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Hardcover (April 5, 2011)
REVIEWER: Betsey Van Horn
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
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April 5, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Humorous, Reading Guide

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