The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz @jeanhanffkoreli @celedonbooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

Jan and I enjoyed this story that did seemed to pull us in after a slow beginning. We were intrigued by Jake and his seemingly unsure about his own innate ability. He was definitely the polar opposite of Evan Parker, his future student. We also talked about in this time of so much controversy, who exactly is “permitted” to tell a story? As the author aptly points out if only those who experience a story can write about it, our book shelves would be bereft of books.

The Plot

“But there was one thing he actually did believe in that bordered on the magical, or at least the beyond-pedestrian, and that was the duty a writer owed to a story.”

Jan’s review

Do writers own their words? Of course. But do writers own a plot or an idea? Of course not, right? Most of us would consider it ludicrous to think a writer owns a plot. But what if someone does not? What if they feel wronged? How far will they go?  

Writer Jacob Finch Bonner is a sad sack. He was a one-hit wonder, but now finds himself struggling to write anything and teaching at a third rate MFA program. 

Then his luck turns. Jake seizes the opportunity to take (‘steal”?) a plot as his own, a plot so daring and different that it is certain to be a hit. He writes his book, and, as predicted, it becomes a huge bestseller. Life is finally looking good for Jake.

However, despite the fact that every word of the novel was his own, he lives in constant guilt and fear that his secret will be discovered. And indeed, someone does know. The anonymous “Talented Tom” (very clever play on words, as the reader discovers), who begins to send him threatening messages. The threats eventually escalate, risking Jake’s career and future.

The cat and mouse games begin as Jake begins to investigate on his own to discover the identity of the person sending him the letters. What follows is a wild ride that ends at a shocking conclusion. Truth really is often stranger than fiction. I enjoyed the plot within the plot with chapters from Jake’s book. Each entry gets us closer to the truth. 

As an aside, I didn’t find “the plot” to be that daring or different, but maybe that is a bit of humor from the author? Maybe all authors think THEIR plot is revolutionary, when it is not? As in this book, it’s not the plot, but the way it is told that makes for a terrific read.

This was a slow start, but the payoff was  worth it. As a buddy read, Marialyce and I enjoyed the author’s sly commentary on a writer’s life and the publishing world. Who owns a story? Who has a right to tell it? It’s certainly a timely topic that begs discussion. 

Most readers will guess the revelations to come and will wonder why Jake is such a dimwit. But the journey itself is the fun of this novel within a novel. But just wait, the final scenes are jaw-dropping! 

·     I received a digital copy for review from NetGalley. All opinions are my own

·     Publication date May 11, 2021 by Celadon Books

Marialyce’s review

For Jacob Finch Bonner, life was good. He was an acclaimed first-time novelist, basking in its glory for a while and eager to follow it up with another winner. However, his second attempt doesn’t go well and he finds himself in the land of floundering, looking for that theme that magical something that will take his newest novel into Olympian heights. Jake is teaching, a joy he initially likes, but after some years finds himself bored and stumbling. His writing life seemed to have hit that old brick wall and every day is just like the one preceding it.

Into his creative writing class, comes Evan Parker, an arrogant imperious man, so convinced the plot of his book is one that will zoom him up to number one in the writing world. He allows Jake to read a few pages of his story and Jake acknowledges this impudent man, cocky and pompous, has a sure to be winner on his hands. Jealousy sets in as he waits for this book to be published and his novel to be eclipsed. However, that event never happens and Jake is perplexed and beyond curious. He finally learns that Even Parker has died presumably from a drug overdoses and since there no family, the temptation to “borrow” the deceased plot idea takes root.

As Jake’s new book storms into the best seller lists of many publications, he meets a woman who eventually becomes his wife, but then an email arrives accusing him of plagiarizing the book and Jake’s trip into the nightmare zone starts. The email missives keep coming and eventually they go to his publisher and are posted on social media. Jake is terrified and decides its time to delve into Evan Parker’s background and the surprises keep coming.

Although this book has quite a slow start, it builds momentum as we journey along to puzzle out the details of deception and lies. At times, it is a bit of a puzzlement why Jake takes this so seriously as he just seems to have taken the plot but written the story himself, and yet he does. As he delves deeper into the actual Evan Parker, he finds that as the old adage goes, life imitates art but this time for Jake, with dire consequences.

and here’s the author:

Jean Hanff Korelitz was born and raised in New York City and educated at Dartmouth College and Clare College, Cambridge. She is the author of the novels: You Should Have Known(Adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, directed by Susanne Bier and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), Admission(adapted as the 2013 film of the same name, starring Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Paul Rudd), The Devil and Webster,The White Rose, The Sabbathday Riverand A Jury of Her Peers, as well as a middle-grade reader, Interference Powder, and a collection of poetry, The Properties of Breath. Two new novels, The Plot and The Latecomer, will be published by Celadon Books in 2021 and 2022.

With Paul Muldoon she adapted James Joyce’s “The Dead” as an immersive theatrical event, THE DEAD, 1904. The play was produced by Dot Dot Productions, LLC, for the Irish Repertory Theatre and performed at New York’s American Irish Historical Society for seven week runs in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Korelitz is the founder of BOOKTHEWRITER, a New York City based service that offers “Pop-Up Book Groups” where readers can discuss books with their authors. Events are being held online for the duration of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

She and her husband, Irish poet Paul Muldoon, are the parents of two children and live in New York City.

10 thoughts on “The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz @jeanhanffkoreli @celedonbooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

  1. As always, excellent review Marialyce! The plot may not be totally unique (ha!) but the way she wrote it certainly was! 😊 The author is certainly accomplished isn’t she? I’m looking forward to her new release next year 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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