cover image The Latecomer

The Latecomer

Jean Hanff Korelitz. Celadon, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-1-250-79079-8

Korelitz (The Plot) returns with an irresistible dramedy of errors about a singularly unhappy family. There’s no love lost among Salo and Johanna Oppenheimer’s triplets as they head off to college in 2000. Harrison, “the smart one”; Lewyn, “the weird one”; and Sally, “the girl,” each have their own separate ambitions. Then there’s Phoebe, “the latecomer,” born that June from the Oppenheimers’ leftover frozen embryo. The strife in the couple’s difficult marriage originates in the 1970s, when they were students at Cornell. Salo was driving a Jeep that rolled over, killing his girlfriend, Mandy Bernstein, and a fraternity brother. Salo and Johanna, a friend of Mandy’s, bond in common grief, but quickly realize they have little else to connect them, and, indeed, as time goes on, Salo loves art more than he does his wife or their children. He becomes a collector of outsider art, stashing his spoils in a warehouse while his family enjoys a privileged life on the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. While Sally and Lewyn sort out their lives at Cornell, and Harrison at an ultraconservative two-year college, Salo makes regular trips to the West Coast to visit a documentary filmmaker he admires, whose life was also shaped by the fateful accident. A birthday clambake on Martha’s Vineyard in early September 2001 sets the stage for a cataclysmic culmination that uncovers a series of festering, self-destructive lies. Korelitz builds several satisfying twists into the crisp and panoramic narrative, and a coda from high schooler Phoebe in 2017 offers an acute look at the family affairs. This is a sizzler. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME. (May)