It's not uncommon for people to go through phases and become tired of their partners, but nobody has ever seen anything like this. All around Stellar Plains, New Jersey, women are telling their husbands, boyfriends and friends with benefits that they've had it. Cold turkey. Don't touch them. They're done.
Dory and Robby Lang, both English teachers at the same high school, get hit with the spell first. All of a sudden, Dory cannot stand the idea of Robby touching her. Lucky for their teenage daughter Willa, she gets to do a little more discovering with her new boyfriend, Eli, before she is struck one day with the idea that their relationship has no future and cuts things off. It also happens to Leanne Bannerjee, the school counselor, who cuts things off with all three of the men she's seeing, and to the gym teacher. One by one, everyone related to this high school gets hit with the spell.
Somehow, no one thinks to attribute this sudden change to Fran Heller, the new drama teacher who is putting on a high school production of Lysistrata. The ancient Greek play deals with a community of women who decide to refuse sex until a war is declared over. Melissa, the high school acting star, has the lead, and although she is the most sexually advanced and liberal of her friends, she, too, is hit by the spell, and thus takes it a step further. Not only is she no longer interested in boys, but, in reading about the war in Afghanistan, she decides she will make her sex ban a public protest just like the character she plays onstage.
While each of the women struck with the spell is grappling with it in her own way, not one of them thinks to bring up the strange affliction to one of her colleagues. So it is a surprise to everyone when, at the opening (and closing) night of the high school production of Lysistrata, everyone is uncomfortable in their seats --- the women because they finally see the parallel, and the men because they've had enough.
THE UNCOUPLING certainly contains a new kind of plot, and I appreciated that Lysistrata was used as a connection to the modern story. It's a quick and easy read, and would be a good book to take along on a vacation. However, Meg Wolitzer's novel lacks the social critique and comedy of the play, and the ending feels like a cop-out after the setup for what could have been a far more literary and compelling work than it ultimately was.
Reviewed by Sarah Hannah Gómez on April 25, 2011