“You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz

You Should Have KnownYou Should Have Known, which I picked up at a library sale for a buck, looks like it was marketed as a novel of suspense: “The thriller we’re obsessed with” (Entertainment Weekly) is printed right there on the cover. However, this is by no means a conventional thriller; it’s divided into three parts, and each is quite different.

First, we have Before, which begins as a comedy of manners set in the world of Manhattan’s wealthy elite. Marriage counselor Grace and her husband Jonathan, a pediatric oncologist, have been granted entrée into this privileged world because (a) they inherited their Upper East Side flat and (b) their son Henry was admitted into his super-exclusive private school as a legacy (Grace was a graduate, back before Manhattan was completely overrun by hedge fund managers). Grace has just penned a self-help manual called You Should Have Known: Why Women Fail to Hear What the Men in Their Lives Are Telling Them. “You know how we always tell ourselves, You never know, when someone does something we don’t see coming? We’re shocked that he turns out to be a womanizer, or an embezzler. He’s an addict. He lies about everything,” she tells an interviewer. “We never hold ourselves accountable for what we bring to the deception. We have to learn to be accountable.”

If you suspect by now that Grace is about to receive the mother of all comeuppances, well, you’d be right. No spoilers here, but During, the second part of the book, is by far the juiciest and most fun, as Grace makes one shocking discovery after another about her husband. It’s hard to believe a Harvard-educated therapist could be so completely fooled—naturally, the friends and in-laws who abruptly disappeared from her life Knew All Along that there was something seriously wrong with the outwardly personable doctor—but the second section is still a heck of a page-turner.

The final third, After, is more of a traditional Woman Rebuilds Her Life After Devastating Setback story, where Grace discovers that people who live in small towns are more soulful and less status-obsessed than wealthy Manhattanites. The paperback edition of You Should Have Known is almost 450 pages long and I feel like it could have been cut by 100 pages or so. But largely due to that middle section, I still devoured the book in three days. It’s the perfect summer read if you’re looking for something that’s suspenseful but also deviates a bit from the standard thriller formula.


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