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'The Plot' by Jean Hanff Korelitz Is the Rut-Busting Novel of the Year

By Dustin Rowles | Books | June 7, 2021 |

By Dustin Rowles | Books | June 7, 2021 |


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I typically fall into a book rut at least once a year. During these book ruts, I’m still reading, but I’m not getting a lot of enjoyment out of it. It feels more like a chore, and it’s not because I’m not reading good books. I’ve read quite a few good-to-great books this year, including Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, Andy Weir’s Hail Mary, and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. However, I haven’t found the book this year that reminded me what I love about reading so much, even when I revisited some favorite authors like Nick Hornby (Just Like You) and Anne Tyler (Redhead by the Side of the Road) or picked up a page-turning classic, like The Westing Game.

And then I stumbled upon The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. I picked it up after reading the review headline in The Washington Post — “The plot of ‘The Plot’ — the best thriller of the year (so far) — is too good to give away” — and refused to read the review any further.

I recommend you do the same. Just get it. Click away from here, and immediately click on the website for your favorite independent bookstore or Kindle or Audible or wherever you get your novels, because Korelitz’s thriller is a goddamn treat. It’s one of those books that you absolutely cannot put down because Korelitz teases the plot from The Plot and drags the reader along by our hands and feet because we have to know.

I’m reluctant to say much else, except that it’s basically Gone Girl for the publishing world. It’s about a struggling author turned writing instructor at a crap MFA program at Ripley College, Jacob Finch Bonner, whose student reveals to him the plot of his own book, which is so good that it’s practically guaranteed to be a huge bestseller that will be turned into a huge major motion picture (the same can be said for The Plot, which comes from the same author that gave us You Should Have Known, upon which HBO’s The Undoing was based, but don’t hold that against The Plot).

Soon after revealing to Bonner the plot of his guaranteed bestseller, the student dies under mysterious circumstances, and so Bonner … steals his student’s plot. But how can you “steal” a plot, right? There’s only like 7 plots in human history, and they’re just recycled in different iterations. Except this one is different. This is the kind of plot that any publisher would buy based only on the elevator pitch. It’s irresistible, so good that even a mediocre author could make hay out of it.

What is the plot? Well, I’m not going to reveal that. That’d ruin all the fun of reading the book. I’m reluctant to say much more, except that The Plot takes an I Know What You Did Last Summer turn, where someone who knows that Bonner stole the plot starts stalking and harassing him about it, threatening to expose him. There’s a layer or two to the identity of the stalker, too, but I won’t say more, except that the novel unfolds perfectly, holding the plot out in front of us like a carrot on a stick right up until Korelitz beats us in the nose with the stick. It’s so good that we can’t help but applaud Korelitz, even as we are bleeding from the face.


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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.



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