Author: JPJ

ARC Review: The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Latecomer
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz

To Be Published:  May 31, 2022
448 Pages

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 20- May 8, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description:

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.

Jessica’s Review: 

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.

Pre-Order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

Book Review: The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

The School for Good Mothers
Author: Jessamine Chan
Published: January 4, 2022

Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 1-6, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars     

Book Description:

Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. What’s worse is she can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with their angelic daughter Harriet does Frida finally feel she’s attained the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she’s just enough.

Until Frida has a horrible day.

The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida — ones who check their phones while their kids are on the playground; who let their children walk home alone; in other words, mothers who only have one lapse of judgement. Now, a host of government officials will determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion. Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that she can live up to the standards set for mothers — that she can learn to be good.

Jessica’s Review:

The entire novel centers around Frida and her very bad day with a lapse of judgement.  She left her 18-month-old child alone for about two hours, and got caught. She then finds herself in the court system and ultimately ends up in a ‘school’ to learn about being a mother for the courts to determine if she should keep or lose her maternal rights to her daughter. I’m keeping my personal thoughts aside as to what Frida did and focusing on the aftermath which is this novel.   

At this school it is all women who have either neglected or abandoned their child in some form. The school is extremely harsh and would make one think twice about having a child, but these women are already mothers.  The use of deprivation of their children and loosing more possible time with them is harsh and they are also given lifelike dolls that record everything to see how the women react. I became attached to Frida’s doll child, she seemed so lifelike to me!

You can’t help but feel for Frida, as the reader can see she really does love her child Harriet and is doing everything she can to win back her rights. The school lasts for a year where they can not see their children in person at all, but there is video and phone calls.  And these calls can and are taken away as punishment.   This is both torturous in many ways as Harriet is so young and will she remember her mother?  Harriett is staying with her father Gust and his girlfriend.    There is also a mantra that the mothers must also constantly repeat. We see how various mothers are affected by this living situation they are all forced into.  Frida’s punishment came off as harsh to me: Frida needed some kind of help for the decision she made, but this???? This ‘schooling’ was extreme in my opinion. 

This dystopian novel gives you so much to think about: surveillance, racism, sexism, parenting, how much control the government should have, and so much more. There is a home for fathers who have made bad choices as well and we do get to see a small part of that when the schools mix.  I would like to see another novel that shows what the men go through in their daily life at their ‘school’.  Somehow, I doubt it is as extreme as the women’s ‘schooling’, hence the double standard that exists between genders and parenting.

The School is quite repetitive with the daily life at the school, and I feel that could have been cut down somewhat. The ‘schooling’ the women are forced to go through is just painful to read and then the ending was not what I was expecting.  It is not a happy ending and there is also confusion with this ending. 

I did not really enjoy this novel, I can’t see how a reader could actually ‘enjoy’ it, but for me Chan accomplished what she set out to do: leave you with a thought provoking  novel that will that will stay with you long after you have finished The School for Good Mothers. I am sure actual mothers will have so many more thoughts than I did.

This is a debut novel, and I do look forward to what else Chan writes in the future. 

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Book Review: After Happily Ever After by Leslie A Rasmussen

After Happily Ever After
Author: Leslie A Rasmussen      

Published: April 6, 2021
Audiobook

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 24-27, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 2 stars

Book Description:

Maggie Dolan finds herself at forty-five at a crossroads in her life. Once a high-level executive, she’s chosen to be a stay-at-home mom for the last seventeen years. But now with her daughter, Gia, soon leaving for college, and her husband, disconnected and with secrets he hasn’t shared, Maggie decides it’s time to figure out what she wants for the rest of her life. As she begins her journey, she has to deal with a narcissistic mother, a brother who doesn’t like her and most damaging of all, the news that her father, her rock, has medical issues that may take him from her. Overwhelmed by all these issues, she’s led in a direction that could destroy what she’s built and make her question the choices she’s made. She’s torn between the life she’s always known and something more exciting that she never expected.

Jessica’s Review:

This is one I was interested in, as I am close in age to the protagonist Maggie, but it just didn’t deliver.  Maggie is at a crossroads in her life with her daughter getting closer to leaving the nest for college and issues with her parents and brother. Maggie has a sort of mid life crisis with the ‘hot guy’ from the gym she befriends.  This is where I had all my issues: OMG stop it! You are having an affair! It may not be a physical one, but it was definitely a mental affair.  What made it worse is that she knew it, but just kept going on with it. 

Her husband isn’t really around for her and her daughter is having her own issues with school life. Maggie also has mom issues and loves her dad, but is slowly losing him to dementia.  The dementia story line is what kept me going with this novel. There is a twist that happens that you are not expecting. 

The audiobook was almost 8 hours long and I also had some issues with the narrator.  She didn’t change her voice any when the narrated pov switched characters: So if you are not paying close attention at the beginning of the chapter you could get confused as to which character was narrating. This could also get complicated since one character has dementia. 

After Happily Ever After has been out for just over a year and was just recently released in audiobook form, which I was given a copy from the publisher via NetGalley.  Many thanks for the copy, I just wish I had enjoyed it more.

I can’t recommend this novel, but would give the author another try in a future novel.   

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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