The Uncoupling: A Novel, by Meg Wolitzer – Book Review

In The Uncoupling, by Meg Wolitzer, a spell slowly works its cold magic on the women of Stellar Heights, New Jersey, causing them to withhold sex and withdraw from their relationships shortly after a new drama teacher arrives and begins to stage a high school production of Lysistrata (the Aristophanes play detailing a sex strike to end war). The spell indiscriminately bewitches women in varying stages of life, encroaching on the boundaries of stable relationships as well as those that have been teetering on the brink for months or even years.

The Uncoupling is a curious read that evoked quite a few varying sentiments within me as I read it. I loved Robbie and Dory Lang, the main couple whose love for each other is so complete that they jointly adopt a new last name for themselves when they marry. It was particularly hard to see their formerly solid partnership inexplicably wither away. Wolitzer touches on the demise of the relationships of other parties within their social circle, including a high school counselor, their daughter and one of her friends, the lead in the school play. The weight of the mysterious spell combined with the stories of myriad characters in whom I had differing levels of interest,  slowed the pacing of the novel for me toward the middle.

Keeping me on my toes through alternating uncertainty and speculation, was the nature of the spell, which struck at random. It can, as a matter of course, be taken figuratively and literally, and had a lot to say about women’s relationships with men and their ambivalence about those relationships, but the spell greatly influenced the way I ultimately read and reacted to the novel. Wolitzer’s writing is fresh and engaging, filled with carefully observed moments, humor and wit. There are always thought-provoking elements to ponder in her work. I did find the end of The Uncoupling to be satisfying, though not so neatly wrapped up that I didn’t continue to explore my own mixed feelings at the novel’s conclusion. Recommended.

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1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Three Hens and a Peacock, by Lester L. Laminack and Harry Cole (Illustrations)   Book Review

Review Copy.

Jen and I chatted with Meg Wolitzer about The Uncoupling in mini episodes (spoilery and not) of our What’s Old Is New Podcast.

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  1. I am so curious about this book, and have seen very little about it on the blogs. I had no idea that all this “uncoupling” was perpetrated by a spell, and that just furthers my resolve to make time for this book. I lived the review you wrote, and also like that the book doesn’t tie up nicely with a bow at the ending. Some of the best books I have read have had sort of ambiguous endings. Great review, and thanks for sharing!

  2. Hmmm, I guess it’s good for a book to sometimes leave it to where you have more to think about on your own. I can’t wait to read this!

  3. I’ve been interested in this one since reading a small preview months ago, and your review has certainly raised my desire to get my hands on this one! Wolitzer is a new-to-me author, and it sounds like I need to grab this one soon. Love the cover, too.

  4. The buzz has been pretty thorough on this one. I’m intrigued, I must admit, but chances are I’m not going to get to it unless the audio throws its little body in my path. My Kindle and bookshelf overfloweth.

    1. I had never heard about an organized sex strike before I heard about this book and Lysistrata. I am curious to read the play.

    1. I agree with you there Sheila. Fascinating. I was reading your post earlier this week about book that you want to hit the spoiler button for and have a full out discussion on and of course at the time I couldn’t think of anything, but this would be a perfect boo to do that with.

  5. I’ve been on the fence about reading this book, so I’ve been searching out reviews and most seem to have mixed feelings about it. I still haven’t made up my mind.

    1. Alyce, it almost begs to be read twice. I have been looking at a few passages since i finished the book and I think i would love it a lot more if I were to read it a second time, and I did like it. It made me think a lot about what the characters were saying about society. Part of the problem is the first time around, I really didn’t have much idea of what was going on in terms of the nature of the spell cast on the women. Knowing how it all plays out makes the themes and maybe the message read differently.

  6. I want to read this one with my book group, since I think it would make for a great discussion. But it’s hardcover, and we’re trying to be cheap.

  7. I just reviewed this one (going up on Monday for TLC tour). I agree with you that her writing is excellent. I had some issues wih the end and the magical realism but overall liked the book a lot. I will have to check out the podcast!