The Plot

Jean Hanff Korelitz's staggeringly good literary thriller The Plot begins as New Yorker Jacob Finch Bonner arrives at his three-week teaching gig at a low-residency MFA program in Vermont. It feels like--and is--a step back for "the once promising author of the 'New & Noteworthy' (New York Times Book Review) novel The Invention of Wonder." Jake's writing career is at a standstill: his follow-up to The Invention of Wonder tanked, and he hasn't published since.

One consolation of his teaching job is that Jake knows his work is at least a cut above the puerile prose of his students--that is, until, during a teacher-student chat, Evan Parker shares aloud a synopsis of his planned novel. Jake can't disagree with Evan's appraisal: "This story I'm writing, it's like, a sure thing." But the prospect of its publication would seem to evaporate with Evan's death, which Jake learns about while poking around on the Internet a couple of years later.

Fast-forward three more years, and Jake, having convinced himself of the uprightness of stealing Evan's plot ("A great story... wanted to be told"), finds his name on the cover of two million copies of the New York Times bestseller Crib. Jake is certain that only he knows the book's origin--until the day he receives a disturbing e-mail, the first of several of an increasingly worrisome kind.

Korelitz (You Should Have Known) demonstrates masterful control with her incremental release of big revealsAs they did in the fictional universe of The Plot, Oprah and Spielberg would do well to rally around Korelitz's lollapalooza. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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