Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Uncoupling (a novel)

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

I admit that a great many of the books I read come straight from the book reviews in the People magazine that is delivered through my mail slot every Thursday afternoon. This book was one of those; I saw the review in People and was so intrigued that I immediately downloaded it to my iPad and read it in three days.

Set in an average, if progressive, suburb of New Jersey, the story centers around certain faculty members of a local high school and their families. A new drama teacher is hired and for the annual winter play, she chooses Lysistrata, a Greek comedy about a slew of women going on a sex strike in protest of a protracted war. As soon as the cast of the play is put in place and rehearsals begin, a strange spell is slowly but surely cast over all the females in town, rendering them done with sex. As each female is overcome by the cold wind of the spell, she immediately loses desire and retreats from the male (or males, as the case may be) in her life. Even seemingly good, solid marriages come to a screeching sexual halt, and nobody understands what is happening. Everything comes to a climax - no pun intended - on the night of the play, and . . . well, I don't want to spoil it, so I'll say no more.

While I wouldn't rate this a great literary work, the author has a sharp wit and excellent insight, I think, into male-female relationships. Although the subject matter is sex, it's not pornographic or even very graphic for that matter - it's really more about relationships. The story is an easy, engaging read, and the subject matter is so intriguing that I found that it moved along very quickly. While I was personally a little horrified at how casually and matter-of-factly the story deals with sex among high-schoolers (probably because I am on the brink of having a high-schooler myself), it certainly raises some very thought-provoking questions about the role of desire in relationships, the ebb and flow of it, the importance of the sexual side of relationships - especially long-term ones - and how the differing needs and wants of men and women in relationships so easily leads to conflict.

I think this would be an excellent book club choice! It would be fascinating, and probably very bonding and therapeutic, to sit among an intimate group of women and talk honestly and openly about the role of sex and desire in our relationships. I hope someone will choose it for my book club at some point!

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