Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE UNCOUPLING by Meg Wolitzer

Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play in which the female lead organizes a sex strike against the Peloponnesian War.  The new drama teacher in Stella Plains, NJ, has chosen this for the high school's annual theatrical production.  Subsequently, a chilly breeze sweeps through the lives of various women in town, causing them to have an aversion to sex.  I can handle a bit of the supernatural in a book, but I can't remember the last time I read a novel that had an enchantment like this, and it seemed a little fairy-tale-ish.  Dory and Robby Lang are married English teachers, and Dory's sudden lack of interest in sex threatens to unravel their marriage.  Dory's single friend Leanne abruptly ends her three romantic liaisons, including one with the married school principal, after his wife suddenly bounces back from chronic fatigue syndrome.  This schism seems to be a good thing, but most are not.  Most poignant is the break-up of Dory and Robby Lang's daughter, Willa, with the drama teacher's son, Eli.  The drama teacher herself is somewhat immune to the mystical spell that has swept the community, since her husband lives in Michigan, so that sex is a rarity anyway.  Since most couples don't discuss their sex lives, the denizens of this community don't realize that they are part of a wave of abstinence.  Several reviewers have mentioned the humor in this novel, but mostly I didn't get it.  One woman's husband comments to his wife, as she is looking in the mirror, that she has let herself go.  Is this supposed to be funny?  I did enjoy one inside joke of sorts, in which Robby makes a sarcastic comment about a grammatical mistake his daughter makes.  I like that the author doesn't point out what the mistake is, nor does she have Robby correct it, so that the grammatically challenged will just say "Huh?" and read on.  The rest of us can smirk along with the author.

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