book review: You Should Have Known

you should have known

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 2014). Contemporary fiction. Mystery/ thriller. Hardcover. 439 pages. ISBN 978-1-4555-9949-3.

“And listening to them, I continually thought: You knew right at the beginning. She knows he’s never going to stop looking at other women. She knows he can’t save money. She knows he’s contemptuous of her—the very first time they talk to each other, or the second date, or the first night she introduces him to her friends. But then she somehow lets herself unknow what she knows. She lets those early impressions, this basic awareness, get overwhelmed by something else.”

Poised for her self-help book’s release—in which she tells women they must rely on their intuition with men– relationship therapist Grace Reinhart Sachs finds her perfect life crumbling. Grace lives the perfect Manhattan life she’s always wanted. She’s married to a pediatric oncologist, her son attends the same exclusive prep school, Reardon, she attended and she lives in the Upper East Side apartment she grew up in [her parents gave it to her]. Perhaps in all the time spent in advising other women Grace managed to avoid realities in her own marriage. Doesn’t that sometimes happen when you focus on your career that you miss the blind spots in your personal life or you let more slide than you might?

Grace’s husband Jonathan travels to a medical conference in the Midwest. Engulfed in work, her impending book debut and planning a prep school fundraiser Grace isn’t too fazed when she doesn’t hear from her husband immediately. They met while in graduate school in the Harvard Medical School library and for Grace she fell instantly and planned out a life with this love. She struggled to have children and finally they had Henry who’s now a teenager. Grace is a successful therapist married to a pediatric oncologist. Isn’t this the life she wanted? The life she expected? She goes about her work and usual routine without analyzing. When there are still no messages from her husband after a mother at Henry’s school is found murdered, Grace becomes perplexed and a bit angered. The police begin questioning and linking her husband to the murdered mother and everything unravels.

“She had always had ropes, she knew that: stability, good health, money, education. She was smart enough to appreciate all that support. But the ropes—they were breaking. Snapping. One by one—she could hear them: little pops, little rips. But it was still all right. There were still so many ropes, holding her up. And she wasn’t that heavy. She didn’t need much.”

Jean Hanff Korelitz’s debut novel Admission is a nearly perfect novel about the high stakes Ivy League admissions process. It became a film last year starring Tina Fey and my mom’s imaginary boyfriend Paul Rudd. Korelitz writes with remarkable details about this elite world. You Should Have Known delves readers into the privileged Manhattan private school environment. It’s not quite as exquisitely written as Admission and not as unique. This story’s been told before and the ending too neat. Some compare it to Gone Girl, which I didn’t particularly care for, as it’s a mystery/thriller involving a cagey husband. Korelitz writes deftly and with astute insight about the wealthy, educated and privileged.

“Today, the typical Reardon dad made money out of other money, that was all, and he was intense, distracted, extraordinarily rich, and nearly always absent. The typical mom was a former attorney or analyst, now consumed with the work of running multiple houses and overseeing the development of multiple children.” [Lean In and a feminist-run setting this isn’t.]

RATING: ***1/2/ 5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Grand Central Publishing.

You Should Have Known

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