So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

So Much for That is a precautionary tale for any of us who have health insurance, who don’t have health insurance, or who don’t have enough or the right kind of health insurance. It’s about Shep Knacker, who has worked most of his life building a successful business. He has reached the point that he is ready to proceed with the second part of his life, which he has dreamed about — a place where he and his wife can live the good life for dollars a day. He has been exploring possibilities for years, and his wife has not found any of his choices suitable. He has finally sold the business and invested the proceeds, but has remained as an employee to the buyer (who once worked for him), waiting for the perfect time to leave. The time has arrived and he is ready to tell his wife that he is going, whether or not she will accompany him. He leaves work and goes home, ready to make his announcement, but his wife beats him to the punch. She says that she is going to need his health insurance. She has cancer.

Shep was a good employer, who provided good health insurance for his employees. It turns out that the new owner has downgraded the health insurance. It turns out that Shep’s wife has mesothelioma and her prognosis is grim. Shep lives with this fact, although the doctors don’t choose to be completely open with his wife about her chances. They feed her hope. She is also buoyed by a possibility of a settlement, due to her exposure to asbestos. Who could blame her?

Shep, in the meantime, must deal with the reality. Thus, the title, So Much for That. He must continue to work for his former employee. The reader is kept apprised of Shep’s investments, through an account statement every couple of months. We despair with him (and think, “so this is what it’s like”) as his account balance goes from about $750,000 to about $3,500. Remember, he does have insurance for his wife — although it’s not the insurance he(we) would like to have.

You will want to read this book. It’s an interesting story of a couple living through a very rough time in their marriage. You’ll want to know if they, and their marriage, survive. But, as I said, it’s also a precautionary tale — for the rest of us.