When the new book from Jean Hanff Korelitz, called The Plot, arrived on my doorstep, I dove right in. Even though it isn’t due to publish until May 2021, I just couldn’t wait. I have a thing for books about authors and the craft of writing. Especially when, like this one, everything revolves around finding a great story.

In The Plot, Jake Finch Bonner is an author who went from up-and-coming to has-been in just a few years time. He’s still a young guy, not yet out of his thirties. And, damn it, he should have a bestseller by now. Instead, he’s teaching at a Master of Fine Arts program in upstate New York and freelancing as a writing coach.

More importantly, Jake struggles daily to find that next story to tell. His agent is begging. He can’t find his muse. In the end, Jake commits dastardly deeds to develop that killer plot we can’t put down. He steps out of the standard code of writerly ethics. Or does he? 

As The Plot continues, Korelitz splits the book into chapters from Jake’s new book and those about Jake’s life. Using the book-in-a-book convention adds suspense and mystery, as we tease out details in both tales. And, of course, Jake’s method of acquiring his story comes back to haunt him.

My conclusions

Once I started this book, I couldn’t stop reading. Even though I guessed the main twist long before the reveal, finding out how everything resolves kept me involved.

Korelitz gives Jake plenty of procrastinator’s rope with which to hang himself. The depth of his struggle to find a new story is crushing him. In the process, Korelitz offers us the perfect combination of bookish inquiry and mysterious intrigue. The Plot lets every reader climb into the angst-filled head of a tortured writer. Thankfully, I liked Jake despite his questionable decisions.

Jake’s life gives readers the insider’s view of being a big-time author, from book tours to paperback releases. We see the social media pressures, and meetings with agents and publishers. If you’re a voracious reader who likes attending author events, this book is interesting for that alone. Throw in a gripping mystery, and it’s a double win.

I recommend The Plot if you like twisty mysteries set in the recent past. Avid readers or writers get bonus thrills because of the spotlight on the world of book publishing.

Pair with other books about writers trying to find plots: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne and The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker.


Many thanks to Celadon Books and the author for an advanced readers’ copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.