Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: "You Should Have Known" by Jean Hanff Korelitz

I feel like I have been on a pretty lucky streak lately, having had the pleasure of reading books that were enjoyable and worthy of being passed on. "You Should Have Known" by Jean Hanff Korelitz is no exception. At 438 pages, it isn't exactly a light summer read, but with writing that flows and a plot that is well-developed, it is a refreshing work of fiction nonetheless.
"You Should Have Known" centers around Grace Sachs, a marriage counselor and therapist living in New York with her husband, pediatric oncologist Jonathan Sachs, and their son Henry. Grace has authored a soon-to-be-published book titled 'You Should Have Known', a self-help of sorts which lambasts women for making terrible choices in companions and spouses when they should have read the tell-tale signs of a doomed relationship from the start. Henry is enrolled at Rearden, a private school catering to the upper-class families of Manhattan, following his mother's footsteps.
Grace's confidence in her expertise on relationships and in her steadfast and loving marriage is shaken and turned upside down when a Rearden student's mother is brutally murdered and Jonathan becomes the primary suspect. In a flurry of humiliation and confusion, the truth about numerous affairs, illegitimate children, and termination of his employment months prior is revealed, leaving Grace devastated and in shock. Everything she thought was true is put to the question. She and Henry quickly depart Manhattan and its inevitable media circus and eventually attempt to start a new life at her lakehouse in Connecticut.
Korelitz is masterful at building suspense. I felt my heart thumping as more and more information was released, felt the frantic helplessness of Grace as she tried desperately to find Jonathan when he disappeared, and gasped when the ropes holding together her life became unraveled string by string. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake her by the shoulders a few times, when 'a-ha moments' would strike me and things fell into place to expose truths before Grace figured them out, or when she purposely and stubbornly fell into denial and refused to see those truths for herself.
The only criticism I have of the book is the romance that Korelitz begins to develop between Grace and her lakehouse neighbor. It starts only a couple months after Grace's world as she knew it came crashing down, and seemed a bit too cavalier and rushed to be believable. A woman who finds out in December that her husband is not only an adulterer but a murderer as well, is not likely to be falling for and kissing another man in late February. I feel as though that part was an attempt by Korelitz to signal that Grace was moving on with her life and would overcome all that had happened, but I believe the book would have been better off without the blooming lovestory at the end.
All in all, this is a solid book. It has a compelling plot and well-developed characters, but is too intense for what I would consider a summer read. Read it when you desire something with more substance, and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

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About Me

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I first joined the Marine Corps in February of 1999. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for three years and in Okinawa for one. I left active duty in 2003 and joined the Reserves that year. I had my first daughter in 2005, and moved from California to Massachusetts in 2006. I left the Marine Corps at that time, and had my second daughter in 2007. I reenlisted in the Corps in September of 2008 and went Active in 2009. I'm currently stationed back in California, loving the weather and the life!