Lionel Shriver novel counts cost of healthcare

Tue Apr 13, 2010 2:24pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Author Lionel Shriver counts the financial and emotional cost of healthcare in a new novel begun well before it became a key policy for President Barack Obama and the topic of heated debate among Americans.

"So Much For That," just released in the United States and Britain where Shriver now lives, follows the dwindling fortune of Shep Knacker, whose dream of retiring to a remote island is shattered when his wife is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

With chapter headings detailing Knacker's rapidly shrinking bank balance, the book addresses the uncomfortable question of how much a life is worth in the United States today.

"I certainly began the book with a political motivation as well as a personal one, but at that time in 2007 healthcare reform was not even an expression in the United States," said Shriver in a telephone interview.

"Obama was also not a credible candidate for president, so it was an odd experience that by the time I finished the book the debate I had hoped to kick off was already raging."

Shriver said that now the U.S. healthcare reform plan was law, her book was not irrelevant -- it was more than an analysis of the crippling costs of U.S. medical care.

"It is not a thinly disguised polemic about a political issue in the United States. It's fiction and I want it to work as a story.

"It's about what a severe illness does to your friendships, to your relationships with your children and most of all what it does to your marriage and I think that is fascinating material."   Continued...

<p>A supporter of the health care reform holds a sign outside a health care town hall meeting with U.S. congressman Kendrick Meeks (R-FL) in Miami, Florida September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria</p>