... a sparkling novel that is in essence satirical and wise, in style old and new ... If this novel is funny, it is also cutting, a nearly forensic study of family conflict...Nimbly, Korelitz juggles the stories of each parent and child, weaving a tapestry of secrets, antipathies and private quests. This is a book with 19th-century scope, touching on politics, race, class, inheritance and real estate ... At times this book suffers from an embarrassment of riches. The plot is ingenious, the pacing brisk — but the reader longs to delve deeper ... As Joanna clings to the illusion of family unity, she begins to 'slide away,' and the reader loses her point of view as well. We see the consequences of her actions in the second half of the novel, but we can no longer access the mixture of pain and idealism motivating them ... As for the triplets, ;'n full flight from one another as far back as their ancestral petri dish' — their loathing becomes limiting. A more nuanced relationship would raise the stakes on the fateful night when the siblings turn on one another. In the event, their entrenched antipathy undercuts the drama of mutual betrayal ... In each case, the reader craves development and shading, but it’s testament to Korelitz’s achievement that her novel leaves us wanting more. Her tale is both compulsively readable and thought-provoking. Her writing is evocative, with rich descriptions of Outsider art, Shaker furniture, rabid parents at college night ... consistently surprising. Its protagonists reinvent themselves with astonishing ingenuity. Fair warning to readers seeking 'likable characters': The people here are fierce, and they fight dirty. The Oppenheimers dare you to love them — and even when you don’t, you cannot look away. The triplets are simply too original, too searching, too driven ... Korelitz shows how art reveals itself to viewers and how ownership illuminates character ... Korelitz combines moral inquiry with social satire. Like Wharton, she invites the reader to reflect, even as she paints a picture of privilege. A sumptuously wrapped gift, The Latecomer is a Gilded Age novel for the 21st century.
Jean Hanff Korelitz's decision to follow her wickedly clever novel The Plot with The Latecomer is a little like a band following a brilliant pop song with a beautiful sound collage. Whereas The Plot is about a fictional story so compelling that it has life-altering consequences for the protagonist, The Latecomer is lacking in anything resembling a traditional plot with measurable stakes, and yet it has multitudes to recommend it just the same. By dint of her mastery of crafting a scene, Korelitz manages to convince readers that whether characters find their peace matters as much as whether a character is, say, found guilty of plagiarism ... can read like a collection of funny stories ... These episodes are silo-like: they elucidate character, setting up dazzling dialogue-rich scenes that touch on politics, religion, race, privilege and sexuality, but they don't recalibrate the novel's path. That's okay: the occasional telegraphing from Phoebe can feel like a clarifying gut punch to happily unsuspecting readers.
... sharp ... like a latter-day Edith Wharton, Korelitz simultaneously mocks and embraces these upper-class combatants. Other readers will hear in this vivisection of a dysfunctional family a Franzenesque attention to the great forces pulsing through American culture. But Korelitz writes with such a light touch that one doesn’t feel strong-armed through a college seminar on, say, pharmaceuticals or bird conservation ... casts a witty eye on a wide spectrum of American life, but when Harrison, Lewyn and Sally become teenagers, Korelitz turns her satiric vision to the excesses of liberal education with particularly singeing effect ... Korelitz’s skill as the ringmaster of this vast collection of episodes feels particularly dazzling ... the resulting scandal shows how deftly Korelitz moves as a satirist, feinting in one direction and then delivering a knockout blow in the other ... There’s a jigsaw-puzzle thrill to Korelitz’s family epic — the way it feels like a thousand scrambled, randomly shaped events until you’ve got the edges in place, and then the picture begins to resolve with accelerating inevitability and surprise. Part farce, part revenge fantasy, the climactic scene at a triple birthday party at the Oppenheimers’ 'cottage' on Martha’s Vineyard is one of the most hilarious and horrible calamities I’ve ever found in a novel ... Korelitz is not so sentimental as to finally draw the Oppenheimer triplets together in a hug, but she knows how to adopt the old conventions of romantic comedy and domestic drama to her thoroughly modern ends. By the time we’re done with these siblings, their lives have been turned inside out, and all their stored-up junk and secret treasures have been sorted, culled and curated for this immensely enjoyable sojourn with a truly memorable family.
Korelitz embeds a vast range of details within the tale...An extensive network of subplots helps to define the characters’ relationships to one another, though all this groundwork-laying can feel frustrating; the promised title character, whose birth is an intrusion to her siblings’ lives, isn’t mentioned until more than 100 pages in and doesn’t step to center stage until the novel’s final third. But this delay allows Korelitz to develop both the rich plot and the nuanced characters who populate it ... Ultimately, Phoebe’s late arrival encourages the rest of the Oppenheimers to realize how their father’s life-changing car crash altered all of their lives. The Latecomer’s blending of family history and research explores how generational trauma can change everything, even for those who don’t know about the incident at its center.
... the distinct narrative voice of the novel [is] pleasure to read. Her sharing of the family history and her role in its reconciliation drive the plot ... The beauty of the novel’s structure is that the aha moments are revealed slowly, during detailed recountings of each of the family members’ lives. We don’t even learn the name of the title character until about a quarter of the way through the book and connections are made between characters until the final page. It makes for a very satisfying read ... In addition to grief and guilt, the book tackles other weighty themes as seen through the eyes of the privileged family ... If it all sounds very heavy and serious, the reading experience is the opposite. The wry and incisive narrative voice and the hope it conveys for her family and by extension, those of us readers in the real world whose issues are closely mirrored in the novel, make the time and effort well worth it.
To read The Latecomer is to be treated to a garden of literary delights. Thoroughly modern social satire! Tonally spot-on chapter titles ... What’s not to love about Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 11th book? Absolutely nothing ... Most novelists get something right. Many get some things right. Very few novelists weave all these qualities into a welcoming net its readers can fall back into with grateful abandon, trusting the book and its author have the strength of purpose to hold them ... One of the many delights of The Latecomer is its author’s adroit handling of the era, locations, and demographic in which the novel is set. Clearly, Korelitz has thoughts and feelings, strong ones, about the personal/psychological theme of her story: the ways in which parents are shaped by their own childhood traumas, and necessarily pass them on, despite their massive, often backfiring efforts not to. Korelitz seems equally passionate about the story’s social/political theme: the narcissistic hypocrisies of wealthy New York’s contemporary creative class ... not a plot-driven, action-fueled novel. The story line doesn’t gallop from start to finish; rather, it moves with the stolid intentionality of the hooves of horse-drawn carriages clip-clopping on cobblestones, returning to their feed bags near New York’s Plaza Hotel. The story line of this satiric, incisive, comical, 439-page New York novel hangs on the two tragedies that bookend it: the opening disaster that lays the groundwork for the plot, and the final, shocking yet inevitable tragedy that closes it ... There are many pages in between, but the masterful skills of the author ensure that the reader won’t be waiting impatiently for the next plot point. Rather, the reader is most likely to close the book disappointed that Hanff Korelitz hasn’t yet supplied another 439 pages of laughter, head-slapping, pure delight, and possibly self-recognition to savor.
... the writing style is embellished and verbose, ideal for readers who favor a complex tome with lots of back story. Some may be disappointed after the faster pace of the blockbuster Plot, but the many twists in the final third are worth the wait.
Readers expecting a mystery might want to look elsewhere, as this is more of a literary tale defining what it means to be a family. It’s a marvelous story full of plot twists, intricacies, and depth in events that the reader will not see coming. Perfect for fans of character-based novels such as those by Sally Rooney or Lauren Groff.
... satisfyingly sprawling ... Korelitz empathetically cradles husband and wife, each mired in their own loneliness and pain, tender but truthful about both their wounds and their failings. When, in the second of the book’s three parts — which opens in the autumn of 2000, when the triplets leave home for college — their point of view is surpassed by that of their children, it can’t help but feel like a bit of a loss ... With every new book Korelitz publishes she adds another string to her bow, and she is a writer of many talents ... a contemporary play on the big, baggy 19th-century novel. It’s a little too mannered to qualify strictly as a state-of-the-nation piece; nevertheless, class, race and politics all play their part, and with especially entertaining effect as far as Harrison’s storyline is concerned ... Jam-packed with incident — a tragic accident, an extramarital affair, a secret love child — and equally heavy on revelation and reconciliation, there’s something slightly over the top about the whole thing, each twist and turn of the plot meticulously constructed ... Korelitz’s prose verges on verbosity, and she is free and easy with her exclamation marks. One gets the distinct impression that she’s having fun with every flourish, though, particularly when it comes to her chapter headings, in the grand tradition of Dickens or Fielding ... deliciously appealing.
... a welcome departure from Korelitz’s usual, more thriller-skewing fare ... Navigating the ebbs and flows of one privileged New York City family might not seem relatable to some, but in the capable hands of Korelitz, we see how she carefully sculpts her characters and their motivations, making us anxiously turn those pages ... Fans of complex family dramas like Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections or Claire Messud’s The Emperor's Children will relish this engrossing read, either relating to the Oppenheimers or thanking your lucky stars that you’re not them.
... an irresistible dramedy of errors ... Korelitz builds several satisfying twists into the crisp and panoramic narrative, and a coda from high schooler Phoebe in 2017 offers an acute look at the family affairs. This is a sizzler.
Korelitz deftly limns this tension-riddled setup and the resulting Oppenheimer family dysfunction ... Part 2, which chronicles the triplets’ college years, is long and at times alienating; Korelitz makes no attempt to soften the siblings’ often mean behavior, which climaxes in an ugly scene at their 19th birthday party in September 2001. It pays off in Part 3, narrated by latecomer Phoebe, now 17 and charged with healing her family’s gaping wounds. The resolution, complete with a wedding, persuasively and touchingly affirms that even the most damaged people can grow and change ... A bit slow in the middle section but on balance, a satisfyingly twisty tale rooted in complex characterizations.