Salo Oppenheimer was a student at Cornell when tragedy struck. He moves on and works to build a life with Johanna. When Johanna is unable to conceive, they try IVF. Triplets soon arrive. The siblings never truly bond with one another, anxiously awaiting the day they’d go to college and be on their own. Once the triplets were ready to leave home, Johanna convinces Salo that they should have a fourth child.
The Oppenheimers are one dysfunctional family! The children’s beliefs, their chosen paths and their personalities couldn’t be more different. Johanna strives to please everyone and Salo chooses to escape into the world of art. While not an endearing family, the dynamics are fascinating. This character-driven story, which spans from the 1960s through 2017, is filled with rich prose, making it a purposeful read. While the book is a bit longer than average, the story is engrossing. Each chapter focuses on one of the family members and is narrated by an unknown person.
For those who have read and enjoyed Jean Hanff Korelitz’s last book The Plot, you may be surprised to discover that The Latecomer is not a thriller. This is a family drama which addresses wealth, entitlement, religion, race, identity, grief, guilt and the bonds of family. Yes, it’s a long list but with complex characters so vastly different, there’s a lot of ground to cover. There are major revelations and twists that make this book well worth the ride. And while this is in no way a comedy, there is a fair amount of wittiness that adds to the book’s appeal.
Many thanks to Celadon Books for the opportunity to read this powerful story of a fractured family in advance of its May 31, 2022 release.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Fiction / Family Drama / Coming-of-Age.
Publication Date: May 31, 2022.