The Uncoupling, Paperback
2.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


What if every woman in town suddenly went on strike?

For the people of Stellar Plains, the staging of a new school production of an Athenian drama coincides with a mysterious cold wind that blows into houses and into hearts, stilling passion and cooling sheets.

As the play moves into dress rehearsal and discontent simmers, opening night cannot come a moment too soon...




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Eleanor Roosevelt High School, or Elro as it’s fondly known around the town of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, has hired a new drama teacher, and she makes a surprising selection for the annual school play: Lysistrata,” Aristophone’s drama in which the Peloponnesian women stage a sex strike convince their husbands to negotiate a peace treaty in their decades-long war with the Athenians. As the play is in rehearsal, an odd spell overtakes the women of Stellar Plains, who, one-by-one, first feel a cold wind blow around them, and then suddenly lose all interest in sex. Long-married women stop sleeping with their husbands, single women end their affairs, and even the teenaged girls break up with their boyfriends. In “The Uncoupling,” life apparently imitates arts, except only sort of: while the women in “ Lysistrata” make an intentional decision to withhold sex for political purposes, the Stellar Plains females are unwitting victims of a spell, and puzzled by the lack of desire that it leads to.The life-imitating-art theme continues in Wolitzer’s book, most notably when the townspeople of Stellar Plains form a spontaneous Greek chorus during the presentation of the school play. But the very fact that “The Uncoupling” needs a Greek chorus is evidence of its main weakness, which is a certain heavy-handedness in conveying its main points. This weakness continues, and is even more pronounced in the disappointing ending, where the mystery of the spell is revealed. Wolitzer’s book is not without its moments. Particularly resonant is the depiction of the relationship between the sullen 16-year-old Willa, who has just fallen in love for the first time, and her liberal, well-meaning mother Dory, who is completely befuddled in her attempts to connect with her daughter. But overall one leaves the book feeling that Wolitzer had a clever concept for a book, but wasn’t quite able to expand it to a compelling tale.

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