My friend introduced me to Lionel Shriver by saying, "You need to read The Post-birthday World. Wait, read We Need to Talk about Kevin first. I'm not sure you'd appreciate Birthday without Kevin." I did as she asked, and I honestly can't recommend any novel by Lionel Shriver highly enough. Her writing is precise- you know exactly what she means and exactly how she means it. No details are wasted, no moment is superfluous. However, the real draw to Shriver's work (and particularly this novel) for me is this: Lionel Shriver doesn't care about your moralizations, the rightness or wrongness of the way you live your life. It's not that right isn't right, and she's not tritely trying to preach that even wrong can look right if you squint and tilt your head. It's none of that. It's that, to Shriver, "rightness" is blasted irrelevant. The most frustrating part of reading this novel is that you want Irina to be rewarded (or punished) for having made the right (or wrong) decision. You need for there to be some justification, some explanation of the higher order of things, but Shriver is unwilling to grant anything so simple as that. In her fictional universe (and, really, in our own reality), your "good" deeds and your "right" choices mean next-to-nothing to anyone but yourself. At the end of the novel, no one has benefited from Irina's faithfulness or faithlessness enough for it to have been justified either way. Life simply is, and the rain will come no matter how you behave yourself. Things will always turn out for the worse that should have gone for the better, and then the other way around, too. Shriver doesn't let you get off by thinking you know what the right choices are, and it's the quality about her that I most respect.