Review by New York Times Review
THE FIRST HALF of Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel about a New York therapist is less than revelatory, although that turns out to be for excellent reason. Grace Reinhart Sachs, an affluent Upper East Side mother with a thriving couples practice, frets almost genetically about such privileged concerns as how much to push her son to continue with his violin lessons. She offers loving descriptions of an ideal husband - a pediatric oncologist - who somehow never gels into either a recognizable type or an intriguingly unique character. The absence of key friends and family members feels underexplained. It doesn't take long, however, for the reader to realize that these structural weaknesses are, in fact, intentional blurrings - vague, unsatisfying details seen from the perspective of an unreliable central character, a woman unable to look too closely at the sharp edges in her cashmere-cloaked life. Grace has always been fascinated by the power of denial, but she misinterprets her preoccupation as professional, not personal. As the novel opens, she is about to publish a book, called "You Should Have Known," exhorting women to stop constructing elaborate stories that justify the failings of the flawed men in their lives and to move on to more deserving partners. Interviewed by a writer for Vogue, Grace lays out the extent of women's blindness in the face of romantic hope: "He could be holding up a placard that says I will take your money, make passes at your girlfriends, and leave you consistently bereft of love and support, and we'll find a way to forget that we ever knew that. We'll find a way to unknow that." It's a given that Grace, as the happily married expert, isn't actually a part of that "we," but within days of uttering those words she learns that the mother of a schoolmate of Grace's son has been murdered, and that her own husband, supposedly off at an oncology conference in Cleveland, has suddenly become unreachable. Grace experiences these two events as distressing but wholly unrelated, intelligently finding ways to unknow the significance of details whose meaning must be apparent to the reader - her husband's cellphone, left behind; the persistent police interest in his whereabouts. It takes an accumulation of worrisome, undeniable new facts to topple the nest of comfortable illusions she has worked so hard to gather. Dramatic irony isn't the only pleasure of "You Should Have Known"; Grace's husband's pathology is erratic enough for behavior that holds genuine surprise. But the real suspense here lies in wondering when Grace will catch up to the reader. When and how will she come to know what she should have known and at some level maybe already did? The momentum of the novel, not to mention the writing, takes off just as Grace starts stumbling her way, arms outstretched, toward a glimpse of her husband's true nature. Reasonably astute about the subtle class distinctions and self-justifications of the moneyed world Grace inhabits, Korelitz writes with far more originality and energy when boring down into the mechanisms of denial. That phenomenon is the terrible mystery she seems most interested in solving. "And then in a location so deep inside her that she had not known of its existence," she writes of a moment of insight for Grace, "something heavy and metallic chose this moment to creak the tiniest bit open, with a grating of rust and the release of a new terrible thought: that everything rising around her was about to converge." Korelitz manages to pull off the contrivance that Grace, having written an entire book about blind spots, could be so spectacularly sabotaged by her own: The advice book is understood as the clanging of an alarm, the product of Grace's own subconscious raging to be heard. In contrast, the novel's resolution feels surprisingly neat and tidy for a story about the messiness of the mind. In fiction, some details, the ones that tug almost imperceptibly at the reader's subconscious, set the stage for an unexpected but inevitable truth; others merely make too obvious what will happen next. In "You Should Have Known," both varieties show up in the service of a story that holds the soothing promise - despite all evidence to the contrary - of a happy-enough ending. SUSAN DOMINUS is a staff writer at The Times Magazine.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [April 20, 2014]
Review by Booklist Review
There is an exquisite but excruciating irony in the fact that Grace's marriage is imploding. The successful Manhattan couples therapist is just about to start the PR blitz for her first book, one that examines the tell-tale, he's not right for you signs that, caught early enough, can prevent shaky relationships from becoming emotional earthquakes. Mired in the media whirlwind while working on a fundraiser for her son's tony private school, Grace is only peripherally aware that her husband, charismatic pediatric oncologist Jonathan, is characteristically but frustratingly incommunicado. Then when one of her committee associates is found brutally murdered the same time Jonathan drops off the radar screen, Grace slowly learns that everything she thought she knew about the man she married is blatantly false. Like peeling back the layers of an onion, Korelitz's stinging deconstruction of this marital facade simultaneously reveals the inexorable lies about Grace's supposedly ideal mate. Sensitively delving into the intricacies of self-deception, Korelitz (The White Rose, 2005) delivers a smart and unsettling psychological drama.--Haggas, Carol Copyright 2014 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This excellent literary mystery by the author of 2009's Admission unfolds with authentic detail in a rarified contemporary Manhattan. Therapist Grace Reinhart Sachs is about to embark on a publicity blitz to promote her buzzed-about book on why relationships fail, You Should Have Known. In the meantime, she cares for her 12-year-old son, Henry, who attends the same private school she went to as a child. Grace also treasures her loving relationship with her longtime husband Jonathan, a pediatric cancer doctor at a prestigious hospital. The novel's first third offers readers an authoritative glimpse into the busy-but-leisurely lives of private-school moms. Grace does her best to get along with the school's vapid and catty fundraising committee. She eventually learns that one of the mothers outside her social strata, Malaga Alves, was found murdered in her apartment by her young son. Grace, already tense and sad from these events, becomes more and more anxious as Jonathan, at a medical conference in the Midwest, proves unreachable over several days. The author deftly places the reader in Grace's shoes by exploring her isolation, unease, and contempt for the rumor mill. The plot borders on hyperbole when it comes to upending what we know about one character, but that doesn't take much away from this intriguing and beautiful book. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME Entertainment. (Mar. 2014) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
In Korelitz's (Admission) latest novel, psychotherapist Grace Reinhart Sachs's soon-to-be-published relationship guide, You Should Have Known, turns out to have an unintentionally ironic title when shocking revelations come to light about her own husband, Jonathan. Grace, who has always considered herself to be happily married and a keen observer of human behavior, learns firsthand how it feels to have people stand in judgment of her personal and professional instincts. The very public implosion of her marriage forces Grace to flee Manhattan with her preteen son and reevaluate everything that she believed about herself as a person, wife, and psychotherapist. In addition to creating an engaging character study, Korelitz offers a tantalizing peek into the world of moneyed Manhattanites and exclusive New York City private schools. Narrator Christina Delaine deftly handles the characters' various accents, genders, and ages and recounts the story in a warm tone, as if relating the tale to a close friend. Verdict This well-crafted novel of suspense is recommended for fans of Gillian Flynn's work.-Nicole Williams, Rochelle Park Lib., NJ (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Jason Bourne meets Martha Stewart in another of Korelitz's woman-of-a-certain-age-in-crisis dramas. The author's 2009 novel, Admission, is now a film starring Tina Fey. Well, not quite Jason Bourne. But Grace Reinhart Sachs is almost as resourceful. She lives the perfect life--or so she thinks--with a rich, famous doctor for a husband and a satisfying if hurried professional life as a therapist, pop psychologist and now author of a book called, yes, You Should Have Known, a book that's "apparently about to snag the Zeitgeist." With said snagging comes her ascent to public personhood, or, as Grace puts it in psychologese, "[t]hus completing my public infantilization." Her book urges women to take charge and exercise due diligence with regard to potential life mates, though in her own case, she had "absolutely just known, the first time she had lain eyes on Jonathan Sachs, that she would marry and love him for the rest of her life." Mistake. Karma being what it is, it only stands to reason that the perfection of her life--the great kid, happy marriage, stunningly appointed city apartment and country home--will fall apart at the mere hint of scandal. And so it does, so that when Grace discovers that he's not everything that he's cracked up to be--emphasis on cracked up--she swings into action to uncover every dirty bit of laundry that's hidden in that oak-paneled walk-in closet. Sachs writes with clarity and an unusual sense of completeness; she doesn't overdescribe, but neither does she let much of anything go by without observing it, which slows an already deliberately paced narrative. She is also an ascended master of the psychologically fraught situation, of which Grace experiences many as she stumbles on but then rises above the wreckage of her life. A smart, leisurely study of midlife angst.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.