Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
To Be Published: May 31, 2022
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 20- May 8, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars
The Latecomer follows the story of the wealthy, New York City-based Oppenheimer family, from the first meeting of parents Salo and Johanna, under tragic circumstances, to their triplets born during the early days of IVF. As children, the three siblings – Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally – feel no strong familial bond and cannot wait to go their separate ways, even as their father becomes more distanced and their mother more desperate. When the triplets leave for college, Johanna, faced with being truly alone, makes the decision to have a fourth child. What role will the “latecomer” play in this fractured family?
A complex novel that builds slowly and deliberately, The Latecomer touches on the topics of grief and guilt, generational trauma, privilege and race, traditions and religion, and family dynamics. It is a profound and witty family story from an accomplished author, known for the depth of her character studies, expertly woven storylines, and plot twists.
The Latecomer is a difficult novel to review. When I received it I saw how the tome that it is at nearly 450 pages and small font, I already knew I had a challenge ahead of me. The premise sounded interesting for me with triplets first and then a later in life fourth child, but the delivery was also difficult to read. We have Sal and Johanna who meet after an accident and eventually get married and have early stages IVF children.
But these children do not share a bond that you would expect with triplets, or even a shared bond as siblings at all. These triplets (Harrison, Sally, and Lewyn) do not like each other and can’t wait to get away from them and their parents. Due to the lack of familial bonds, when the triplets are seventeen Johanna decides to have the fourth embryo implanted into a surrogate.
None of these characters are likeable, with Harrison being the least liked by me as a reader. I skimmed over Harrison’s chapters; I was not interested in him at all. I was intrigued more with Sally and Lewyn with their situation of being at the same college, but not acknowledging each other at all. Of course, this situation heads to disaster.
If you can make it through the first 300/350-ish pages, then when Phoebe (the fourth child) makes an appearance then you are in for a ride as she changes everything up when she becomes seventeen. There is a bit of a surprise in these last pages where nothing is as you think!
This is a novel that focuses on family dysfunction, high art society, privilege, race, and secrets galore. The Oppenheimer family are Jewish, so for those not familiar with the Jewish religion and traditions, you will learn some. The Latecomer is a slow burn that if you can make it through until Phoebe takes off then you are set!
Many thanks to the publisher for granting me a copy via Bookish First.