Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Uncoupling - Meg Wolitzer

The Uncoupling

Passion, sex, and romance prevail in this novel...until a mysterious spell enchants the characters.

   Everything seems normal in the small town of Stellar Plains, New Jersey until the local high school hires a new drama teacher - Fran.  Fran decides to shake things up a bit in this sleepy little suburb by choosing Lysistrata as the school's next play to perform.  Lysistrata is an ancient Greek play by Aristophanes in which Greek women withhold sex until their husbands agree to end the Peloponnesian War.

   Soon after Fran arrives, something strange begins to happen to the women of Stellar Plains - their libidos plummet and women all over town begin turning away from their husbands or boyfriends.  This presents quite a challenge to the couples of this novel, and while some decide to treat this phenomenon as a mere phase and hope to wait it out, other couples cannot withstand the lack of physical intimacy.

   The Uncoupling is whimsical and funny, but it is also very poignant.  While sex is very important to a relationship, it is not the glue holding it together (or at least it shouldn't be).  But at the same time, the novel serves as a warning for readers - passion and desire are very precious things within a relationship, and it is each person's responsibility to not let it fall by the wayside.  In the opening of the novel, Wolitzer writes, "People like to warn you that by the time you reach the middle of your life, passion will begin to feel like a meal eaten long ago, which you remember with great tenderness."  But through The Uncoupling, Meg Wolitzer shows readers that passion doesn't have to be just a first course for relationships...if we are willing, patient, and dedicated then we can surely come back for seconds and thirds.

   If you decide to read this novel, I recommend skimming through a copy of Lysistrata first.  The Uncoupling does explain the plot and include direct quotes from the play, but I think you might get a better sense of the "spell" and its origins if read the play first (Plus, it's only about 60 pages long).  When you look at the juxtaposition of these two works, it really brings to light the fact that sex has always been a sensitive subject when it comes to relationships and their power dynamics.