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What We're Reading Now: 'You Should Have Known' by Jean Hanff Korelitz

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You Should Have Known

Do you know what I enjoy? A book that not everyone agrees on. In fact, I want people to vehemently disagree. I want fists shaking, heads nodding, scoffing, even! Roll your eyes at each other, y’all! (Yes, like April Ludgate, I also enjoy games that turn people against each other.) (No, I don’t know why I’m like this.)

I didn’t intend to read Jean Hanff Korelitz’s You Should Have Known this week — in fact I was walking around the office saying the words “Lena,” “Dunham,” and “book” as often as possible, expecting/hoping someone would throw it at me from their office so that I might read it — but then I was in Tina’s office rooting through her piles when she handed me this.

“I loved it, and so did a few others, but some people really disliked it,” she said. I took it and ran.

I hedge towards Tina on the like/dislike scale. I find it clever. I find it funny. Mysterious, surely. Thought-provoking, undoubtedly. In the beginning, I thought repeatedly of Big Little Lies: the upscale grade school, the terse smiles passed between upper-middle-class mothers, the secrets lying beneath too many a perfect facade. Grace, the center of our story, is a therapist on the verge of releasing her first self-help book. Titled You Should Have Known, the book is about women and their uncanny desire to unknow the darker sides of the men they’re seeing — to pretend their faults don’t exist until they are shell-shocked by an affair, or a gambling problem, or worse.

Grace is married to a “perfect” pediatric oncologist named Jonathan. I feel like you have probably already guessed where this is heading: Jonathan, as it turns out, (spoiler alert) is not perfect. He has many secrets. Most of them are dark. Suddenly, Grace is left with a missing husband, and sitting in the wake of a violent death and developing crime story. There are many moments that follow in which the book — or Grace, rather — becomes frustrating. She almost becomes that character in all horror movies who never does the logical thing. You know, the one you constantly scream at, “Why didn’t you just turn on the lights!?!”

Also, in the way that most horror movies seem to always provide an unsatisfactory ending (honestly though, this is not a horror-novel), the ending here didn’t really meet my basic needs as a reader.

But — and I thoroughly mean this — I was entertained until the end and there is more than something redeeming to say for that.