Hormones or Sex Hex? The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

The cover of Meg Wolitzer‘s latest novel, The Uncoupling, is an aerial photograph of houses and tree-lined streets, the scene of a “spell” that creeps over Eleanor Roosevelt High School in the suburban town of Stellar Plains, New Jersey and causes women and teenage girls — one by one over the course of a winter — to lose all desire for men. This unexplained frigidity comes over female teachers, students, administrators, and counselors suddenly, like a blast of ice-cold air, but separately and without any warning, so each thinks it has happened to her alone. The women say nothing to each other about this private change in attitude.
The women’s confused and frustrated male partners also do not confer, so no one realizes that this is a universal experience, coinciding with ongoing auditions and rehearsals for the spring play, Lysistrata, a lusty Aristophanes comedy translated from the ancient Greek. Lysistrata is about a woman who persuades married women of her town to withhold sex until their husbands stop fighting the Peloponnesian War. With its nudity and obscenity, Lysistrata struck Dory and Roby Lang, a popular English-teaching couple with a daughter at the school, as an odd choice  but no one objected and, apparently, Fran Heller, the enigmatic, new drama teacher, was modifying or deleting the most egregiously inappropriate scenes.
A funny fable with serious undertones and intellectual underpinnings, The Uncoupling would make a good pairing with Tom Perrotta’s novel The Abstinence Teacher for a book discussion. Meg Wolitzer works themes of love and desire, marriage and society, and parents and children into the novel along with touching and wryly amusing scenes of the perplexed denizens of Eleanor Roosevelt High School struggling with their Lysistrata-esque sex strike and all its repercussions.

Other opinions about The Uncoupling (mostly good):
The Book Lady’s Blog
Boston Book Bums
The Boston Globe — Laura Bennett
The Literate Housewife Review
The Washington Post
— Ron Charles

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