Latecomer Jean Hanff Korelitz Faber, €12.99
The overarching family story that engages readers from just before 1980 to just before 2020 needs to be big. And this novel also weighs over 500 pages. Described by its author as “a novel with six main characters”, it is Dickensian in scope and scale and “glorious” but Korelitz’s focus is on laser sharpness, on a privileged and doomed New York Jewish family.
Salo Oppenheimer has been missing and devastated since he killed his best friend and girlfriend in a car crash when he was 20 years old. His wife, Johanna, to whom he sleepwalked a few years later, was a fixation junkie and when they were unable to conceive, she took advantage of a new in vitro fertilization program, creating created triplets in 1982 and left a fourth embryo on the ice.
The trio, Harrison, Lewyn and Sally can’t stand each other and spend their privileged lives avoiding each other. When the children were 18 years old, Johanna hired an agent to represent the fourth embryo and the one who came after this title. Phoebe’s siblings – literally – have nothing to do with her.
Salo’s only solace is his very own collection of avant-garde art.
Johanna has completely failed in her quest to somehow unite her “petri” family. The triplets set off for college – shortly after 9/11, its effects – and they continued to ignore each other.
These college days are where the author has the most satire fun. There’s a discord with the Mormons (a funny view of mass self-delusion and very funny), a friendship formed with a black boy Poah from West Virginia, a “natural” autocratic” and a populist, an examination of hoarding and its effects on others, and a lingering, reluctant acceptance of one’s sexuality.
Countless other aspects of contemporary American life are shown under Korelitz’s microscope, where all major issues take turns. Of course, money is a standout. Race, politics, history, education; you name it, it’s all here.
And while some elements deserve to be driven purely by her relentless penchant for irony (and taking it to the neck), others are intentionally exposed to confuse the reader, like The social chasm widened in the land of opportunity, forming a yawning abyss right in front of us.
Of course, the Oppenheimers have unraveled – in spectacular style – and, like some sort of Second Coming Accident, are headed for Brooklyn, or maybe Martha’s Vineyard, the poor latecomer is clogged with their redemption.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books/book-reviews/a-satirical-bite-at-a-wealthy-but-unravelling-new-york-family-41975880.html A satirical bite into a wealthy but confusing New York family