Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Uncoupling

What would happen if all the women in your town decided to go on a sex strike? Gradually, then suddenly, lovers turn away, wives think up more and more excuses, and sexually active teenagers decide they want to be single in their youth. Would wars stop...or begin? The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer asks its reader to suspend disbelief and allow a certain amount of magical realism for it to tell its tale.

There's a new drama teacher in Stellar Plains, NJ, and she's staging a Greek comedy for the high school's winter play: Lysistrata, the story of a woman who convinces the rest of the women in Greece to go on a sex strike to end The Peloponnesian War. What no one realizes is that the play brings about a spell--a cold spell--that affects the women of this small suburb.

Now solid marriages seem shaky, passionate affairs end as quickly as they started, and everyone seems a little on edge. The book's climax comes on opening/closing night of the play, to be performed only once. It is here, the the high school's theater, where we see the spell's full effects and where some measure of resolution comes.

Altogether, this was a fun and quick read. It reminded me of The Leftovers, another quiet suburb meets magical realism type book. It's a unique take on the importance of relationships and the power of physicality, though things did work out a little too cleanly for me. I wanted a little more push, even if that meant less of a happy ending. My only other critique was the homogeneity of the entire thing, though I guess the author did set her tale in the suburbs of New Jersey for a reason.

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