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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

This is a fast, compelling read, and I tore through it at top speed to find out the Big Reveals. I predicted some of the story, but other aspects were wonderfully shocking.

This book made me verrry nervous. Reading about lying and stealing makes me very stressed out, so I was biting my nails while reading Korelitz's story.

Jacob Finch Bonner (he added the "Finch" himself once his aspirations to become a writer became all-encompassing) wrote a well-received first book as a young man, but now he's nearing middle age and his career has fizzled. He teaches writing at a third-tier university and isn't even working on anything new--not that any agents or publishers are particularly interested.

An obnoxiously confident student who's cagey about what he feels is a slam-dunk bestseller book idea reluctantly confides in Bonner about his plot concept. When the student abruptly dies soon afterward without publishing his book, Bonner banks on the probability that the young man hadn't entrusted details about his book to anyone else. He decides to take a risk: he'll use his student's concept and aim to create a bestseller of his own. He's writing the whole thing himself. So he's not stealing, right? It's completely fine. Everything is going to be fine. You can't copyright a plot anyway, right? RIGHT?

Do you think this terrible decision-making comes back to haunt Jacob Finch Bonner? Yes, bookworms. YES, IT DOES. And my heart raced while I read to find out if this fraught situation would blow up in fantastic form.

I didn't predict the plot within the plot before it was alluded to (about 60 percent of the way through the book), and I found it deliciously chilling. I did, however, anticipate other key elements of the story from pretty early on. I also wasn't sure that certain driving forces of Korelitz's story made sense (why would anyone in this scenario harass Bonner rather than leaving the situation alone, unless it was clearly revenge?). But this is a fast, compelling read, and there was no chance I wasn't going to tear through it at top speed to find out the Big Reveals.

Korelitz prods at the question of the ownership of ideas while taking readers down the uncomfortable path of a protagonist who steals, feels terrible guilt, rationalizes his actions, and emerges with defensive self-righteousness. Ironically, Bonner's theft opens the door to romantic love and building trust with others in his life, and to a more open and heartfelt relationship with his parents, along with his incredible professional success.

I received a prepublication copy of this book, published May 11, 2021, courtesy of NetGalley and Celadon Books.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

My mom told me about a movie with a plot centering around a stolen book idea, The Words (starring Bradley Cooper and Dennis Quaid, so I believe I need to watch this immediately). I wonder how that story might compare to this one?

Korelitz is also the author of The Undoing, Admission (I read and really liked that one), and other books.


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