Latecomer Jean Hanf Kolleritz Faber, €12.99
A family story that stretches the reader from just before 1980 to just before 2020 needs to be big. And this novel is well over 500 pages. Described by the author as “a novel with six main characters”, its scope and scale, “baggy” are Dickensian, but Corelitz’s focus is laser-sharp, the privileged and doomed New York Jew. Focus on family.
Salo Oppenheimer has been lost and traumatized since she lost her best friend and girlfriend in a car accident when she was 20. His wife Johanna ended up sleepwalking and getting married a few years later. She took advantage of a new in vitro fertilization program and gave birth to triplets in 1982, leaving her fourth embryo on ice.
Triplets Harrison, Lewyn and Sally can’t stand each other and live privileged lives avoiding each other. When the children turn her 18, Johanna hires a surrogate for her fourth embryo, and the titled latecomer arrives. Little her Phoebe brother literally has nothing to do with her.
Salo’s only consolation is his very private collection of avant-garde art.
Johanna has completely failed in her mission to somehow unite her “Petri dish” family. The triplets leave to go to college – shortly after the aftermath of 9/11 – and they continue to ignore each other.
These college years are where the author has his most satirical fun. , the “self-taught genius”, the would-be populist, the phenomenon of hoarding and its effect on others, and the reluctant and lingering acceptance of one’s sexuality.
A myriad of other aspects of modern American life slip under the lens of Korritz’s microscope, and all the big problems are solved. Of course money is important. Race, politics, history, education. You name it, it’s all here.
And while some elements are worthy of the full thrust of her endlessly ironic pen (and putting it in the neck), others are deliberately left out to embarrass the reader. For example, it forms a gaping yawning abyss, like the ever-widening social rifts in the Land of Opportunity. right in front of us.
Of course, Oppenheimers unravels in spectacular fashion, and poor latecomers struggle to redeem themselves, like Brooklyn, or some kind of accidental second coming slouching toward Martha’s Vineyard.