Review: The Uncoupling

The Uncoupling
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel a little bit bad because I did want to love this book. It’s a great idea – In a small New Jersey town, not far from the city, a new drama teacher decides to stage Lysistrata. While the teenage girls are learning to project, the women of Stellar Plains are experiencing their own version of a sex strike. One by one, as a cold breeze envelops them, they more than lose their desire; they become averse to sex. Their men (and these are all, despite a little mention of one gay marriage, heterosexual) are confused, hurt, resigned.

Here’s what to love: Willa, the daughter of one of the main couples. She is a real teenager. Normal, ordinary, getting ready to have her moment and to learn what she, herself, wants. Marisa, one of her school friends, an excellent student who discovers her political center and also an awareness that she can decide what happens to her based on her own wants and desires. These feel like real girls and real victories.

For me, I just never felt that the whole Greek play as catalyst worked. I love a good fantasy, and science fiction, too. Somehow, though, the spell on which this whole plot spun did not feel real to me. I was not able to believe it. I also had a lot of trouble believing the complacency with which most of these formerly sexually involved and happy women gave up that part of their lives. They largely walked away from it without much thought, other than feeling a little bad about disappointing their partners. If this is supposed be a realistic exploration marriage, relationships, and female desire over time, I would expect each of the women to actively fight to figure out what had changed for them and how to get their desire back.

Then, when [spoiler alert] it turns out the drama teacher has done all this on purpose as part of some G-d complex, well, meh. That seemed a little ‘mwa-ha-ha’ cue the horror movie music.

I did really love the writing of the evening of the play’s actual performance.

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