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.
Dr. Stuart Knott
Published: February 11, 2022
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
You’re cordially invited to LaVey House…
The reclusive Howard LaVey has presented writers Frederick Brandis, Aster Callahan, Rhiannon Hughes, and Mikhail Orlov with the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to spend a week at his ominous estate and collaborate on a horror anthology.
Each of them hopes to get something out of it, ranging from riches to recognition, but egos flare and co-existing becomes a struggle as each writer battles against their own demons and self-doubts.
Soon enough, LaVey House turns out to be much more than they bargained for, and the chance of a lifetime quickly becomes a living nightmare as ancient spirits awaken and torment them at every turn.
Four writers, four stories, but the true horror lies buried within the dark hallways and forgotten secrets of LaVey House just waiting to live again!
The Summoning is an intense horror collaboration from the minds of Dr. Stuart Knott, Harriet Everend, and Jessica Huntley and featuring contributions from Alice Stone, Shantel Brunton, Tom Schnipke, and Daria Lavrenteva.
TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR:
Violence, supernatural horror, depictions of abuse (domestic, physical, and emotional), trauma, swearing, rape suicide, depression, panic attacks, loss of a child, blood and gore
Whoa: This one was crazy! Ivan got me this book for my birthday and I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated! It’s thick and has three different authors; my history with those kinds of books isn’t really that good. But thankfully, this one was good! It caught my attention right from the first page! I also didn’t really notice any differences in writing style. Everything made sense and flowed as if there were only one author.
The characters were all unique and had their own interesting plot lines throughout the story. The setting of LaVey House was fabulous and now I want to visit! My only real issue is that I wasn’t given enough info on the endgame (I call it that cuz I don’t want to spoil it). Y’all know that I need as much info as possible and this was another open ending that just made me want more! But I liked how everything came together and even the open ending made sense and closed out the story well. This is a really good one for any horror fan!!
The School for Good Mothers
Author: Jessamine Chan
Published: January 4, 2022
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: May 1-6, 2022
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
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.
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.[Top]