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Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz


Title: The Plot
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Year published: 2021
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 336 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)USA (NY, CA, WA, VT, GA)

SummaryJacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

Review: Both of my book groups chose this book this month and I am glad; it's a fun read. About three quarters of the way through I thought I had figured out the twist and I had, but that didn't take away from my enjoyment of the novel. 

I could empathize with Jacob. He hasn't had the success he hoped for and he is struggling to write his novels, but I also wanted him to be more proactive in getting a job/supporting himself. He was ripe for a "borrowing" when it landed in his lap. And I liked the build-up of his novel and it's twist. Having pages of the novel inside the book was a great way to lead us through both stories in parallel.

Anna is also a good and surprising character who seemingly brings care, calm, consistency, and stability to Jacob's life. And he needs that. 

I was afraid this book would be a repeat of Yellow Face (link to my review), but it isn't. Yes, stealing a story is the basis for both, but this one is very different. I liked all the publishing world bits, the book tour anecdotes, and what it's like to be a successful author.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Bookish--narrator is an author and it's all about a book he has written
  • Literary Escapes--Vermont, Washington, and Georgia

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