If you are a member of the Sandwich Generation, you might be one of those adults who handle their aging parent’s financial matters. Writing checks for thousands of dollars every month for long-term care and donut-hole Medicare coverage is not only frustrating, you can’t help but wonder when we get to be that age – how much is this going to cost then? And what about if you personally experience a medical hardship that isn’t covered by your employer’s health care policy (assuming you are fortunate to have it)? All of this and more are wrapped up into Lionel Shriver’s recent novel, So Much For That.
Shep Knacker previously sold his small business for a cool million. He continued to work at the business for the new owner in a lesser role as he prepared for his version of The Afterlife, relocating to a cheaper, prettier, warmer destination where he could live his remaining years on a few dollars a day. One Friday, Shep tells his boss “Adios!” (in not quite such nice terms) and purchases three one-way tickets to Pemba Island, Africa. Pemba will be the destination of The Afterlife that he can enjoy with his wife and teenage son.
As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans,” Shep’s wife, Glynnis, returns home that night to disclose that she has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. The Afterlife, at least this Afterlife, starts to shrivel and die before Shep’s eyes. Shep has to return to his dreaded job so he can at least get the basic bones of health care coverage for his wife. One crisis begets another, and soon Shep is not only dealing with his wife’s health crisis, but his father’s as well.
Each chapter starts with the drastically shrinking investment account balance as Shep spends everything he has to care for his family and cover the costs that his health insurance doesn’t pay for his wife and the gaps that Medicare doesn’t pay for his dad. Meanwhile the reader is left to ponder “what would I do in this situation?” and “how much would I want someone to spend on me?”
The other Shriver novel I have read and highly recommend is What About Kevin? It’s about a family dealing with the aftermath of high school violence that was committed by their son. You’ll either never have children after reading this or give yourself a Parent of the Year Award if you have successfully transitioned your children to adulthood without dealing with this type of issue.
These books are not pleasant reads, but watch your daily cares shrink as you read about other people whose lives you wish never to have.