Book Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz is a delicious and suspenseful story of a struggling novelist and a far-too-tempting opportunity.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising novelist, but years after his initial book he’s now struggling with his writing and working as a teacher for a third-rate MFA program. And then Evan Parker walks into his class. Evan is arrogant, completely unlikeable—and is convinced he has the single greatest plot for a novel. Evan refuses to take part in readings or peer critiques because he’s convinced his plot is so good someone will steal it. When Evan finally shares his plot with Jacob, Jacob has to agree that it’s fantastic.

As Jacob continues struggling with his own writing, he waits for word of Evan’s break-through success, but it never comes. Jacob discovers that Evan Parker is dead and his novel was never published. But how can Jacob let a plot like that die along with his former student? And so he writes the book himself—new names, new places, but the same basic plot line. And the book turns out to be as big of a success as Evan Parker imagined. But at the height of his success, Jacob gets an email that reads simply “You are a thief.”

Now Jacob is frantically trying to figure out who this anonymous threat is as well as who Evan Parker was and where his idea for the plot came from.

The Plot is a suspenseful read, is well-paced and entertaining. Sadly, I guessed who the person was early on, so I wasn’t surprised at the reveal though there were a few intricacies that I found clever. I received an audiobook ARC of The Plot and found the performance to be okay. Initially I thought I may have gotten a synthesized audio because of the performer’s voice, but that wasn’t the case. The performance wasn’t terribly reactive or emotion-laden, so it was kind of a monotonous tone, no highs or lows to go along with the changes in the storyline.

My one complaint about The Plot was the point at which the narrator is describing creativity and the genesis of ideas. There’s a book by Elizabeth Gilbert entitled Big Magic and in it, the author describes how an idea/story is looking for a person to tell it. If the idea lands in one author, and that person doesn’t bring life to it, and do so within a specific time, that idea may alight to another person to tell it. In this book, the description of that phenomenon was told almost exactly as Elizabeth Gilbert describes it. It seemed as though Jean Hanff Korelitz relayed that as an idea of her own as it wasn’t attributed to anyone else or even mentioned as “there’s a theory that…”. I can’t say that was her intention, but in listening to that section evolve, I was struck by how similar it was to the description in Big Magic.

Despite that, I do recommend The Plot and it is available now.

*I received an audio ARC of The Plot  from Netgalley and MacMillan Audio in exchange for an honest review*

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