What Ails Us

In her new novel, Lionel Shriver makes the health care system her villain

Eva Vermandel / Contour / Getty Images

Shriver does well with characters who see the worst in the world.

Lionel Shriver has a history of conjuring up cranks and complainers who see everything wrong with the human condition. She usually manages to turn these characters into dark delights, whether they are the demographer in Game Control blithely planning a pandemic or the brittle mother in We Need to Talk About Kevin who abhors her child. Brilliantly funny and a superb plotter, Shriver is a master of the misanthrope.

But there's no way to brace for the morass of misanthropy in her new novel So Much for That (Harper; 433 pages), which attacks the American health care system more savagely than...

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