The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz, 4 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.

My Review:

The Latecomer is a sort of sweeping family multi-generational saga that can be so satisfying to read. We first meet Salo, the patriarch, at the turning point in his life. When he goes from being a normal young man to living in deep discontent and regret for the rest of his life. By the time he meets Johanna, he’s given up on a lot of things most of us strive for in life and kind of settles.

Johanna’s one hope in life is to be a mother and after a lot of trouble, they finally conceive three “test tube” babies. The three children that come from the marriage, Harrison, Lewyn and Sally and all kind of as indifferent as their parents. Salo just kind of trudges through life, Johanna lives for her children, and none of them could care less about any of it, or each other. It isn’t until Johanna gives birth to a fourth child, their true sibling who was conceived at the same time as the triplets, but frozen in wait until 18 years later, that a catalyst takes hold of the family and they all being to find their true selves.

The Latecomer is beautifully written and compelling. It’s a slow burner, much like it’s title and characters suggest. Special thanks to Netgalley and Celedon Books for an advanced egalley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out now.

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