Study Guide

You Should Have Known Introduction

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

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You Should Have Known Introduction

Marriage counselor Grace Reinhart Sachs literally wrote the book on spotting potential relationship deal-breakers before it's too late. Didn't realize your husband's college experimentation with guys was more than a phase? You're shocked the guy who cursed out servers at restaurants turned out to be a controlling rageaholic? Grace isn't buying it.

To borrow one of her patients' favorite therapy phrases, he was giving you clues to his "authentic self" all along. You should have known.

In addition to being the title of this book, You Should Have Known is also the title of Grace's book-within-the-book. She's gearing up for her big, splashy press tour full of Vogue interviews and appearances on The View. There's just one tiny problem: Right before the book's launch, she learns that her own marriage is built on a foundation of lies so extreme and appalling that she has no right to judge anyone for wearing rose-colored glasses.

Author Jean Hanff Korelitz takes a borderline sadistic approach to chipping away at Grace's seemingly perfect life, giving her just enough time to catch her breath after one life-changing revelation...before knocking her down again.

If that plot sounds like a run-of-the-mill tale of a difficult marriage, it's not. We don't want to spoil all the twisty-turny reveals, so we'll just say that Grace's husband, Jonathan, actually never appears in the book outside of her memories—and the front page of every newspaper in town.

In fact, the Hindenberg-level collapse of Grace's marriage ultimately takes a backseat to her journey of self-discovery. Korelitz strips Grace's reality away so severely that she's forced to redefine who she is at her core—her authentic self, one might say. Coincidence? We think not.

Korelitz's books have made the page-to-screen leap before; her novel Admission was adapted (and...comedified?) into a 2013 rom-com starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. You Should Have Known, however, is poised to be even more successful as a miniseries on HBO, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in the leading roles. Given the massive popularity of HBO's other book-based miniseries with Kidman as a flawed female lead, we have a good feeling about this one.

Whether you're looking for water cooler fodder after the miniseries premieres on not-TV or just a page-turner that keeps you guessing, You Should Have Known is a captivating read. Some plot twists you'll see coming way before Grace does, thus getting a taste of the superiority complex that got her into this mess. Others will blindside you right along with her, and it's only when you lose your place in the book and skim through past chapters that you'll realize Korelitz left seemingly innocuous clues along the way.

If only you'd known they were important.

Well, you should have known.

What is You Should Have Known About and Why Should I Care?

We've all had those moments: That guy you've been crushing on suddenly ghosts you. Your BFF is always too busy to get coffee, but she seems to have time for biweekly mani-pedis with her new co-workers. The dude from Craigslist who said he'd sell you an exclusive, brand-new model of the Apple iPhone shows up with a literal Granny Smith and a Razer.

Suddenly, you're questioning everything you thought you knew about that person, wondering how you could have been so wrong. Boy, do we have the perfect book to take the sting out of those moments. It's this one, in case that wasn't clear.

At the risk of sounding schmaltzy, You Should Have Known encourages readers to revisit their perceptions not just of others, but of themselves. Without the most important people and possessions in your life, who are you, really? That question follows several characters throughout the book, and ultimately their answers are as unique as the characters themselves.

If the opportunity for some serious self-discovery isn't your cup of tea, at least you can take comfort in knowing somebody else—albeit a fictional character—has worse luck in relationships than you do.

You Should Have Known Resources


Author's Page
Can't get enough of Korelitz's writing? Check out her website for info on her other books and occasional writer appearances.

Movie or Tv Productions

New Title, Same Crazy Plot Twists
Get ready to tell all of your friends they should have known the hot new HBO miniseries was based on a book—although the miniseries has been retitled The Undoing, so your witty play on words probably won't get a big reaction. Without a release date, only time will tell how successful the page-to-screen transfer will be. That said, with Nicole Kidman (Grace), Hugh Grant (Jonathan), and Donald Sutherland (Grace's dad), it's definitely not lacking in star power.

Articles and Interviews

Q&A with JHK
Chances are good that nobody actually calls author Jean Hanff Korelitz "JHK," but after reading this Q&A from 2014, we feel like we know her well enough to get away with it. Irony alert: She says her inspiration for the book came from her obsession with "lies and the lying liars who tell them," citing the (now former) Senator Al Franken as the speaker of that quote. Awkward.

11. Jonathan Sachs
Is it too late to add the Murder Doc to this list of 10 fictional psychopaths?

VIP Book Club
Some people offer deals on moisturizing, age-defying leggings as their side hustle; Jean Hanff Korelitz offers access to her author friends. Seriously, she started a service called Book the Writer, and it sounds amazing. If only she could convince Mark Twain to make an appearance at the annual Shmoop reenactment of "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."


Good Morning Emerson
We'll add this one to the "Random TV Appearances" file, but we thoroughly enjoyed watching Jean Hanff Korelitz nurturing and encouraging creative college students in this interview with Emerson College's weekly morning show.

You Should Hanff Known
"I don't think I've ever written a female character who I didn't want to slap." Jean Hanff Korelitz utters this amazing gem around the 24-minute mark of this 42-minute conversation about her writing process. (Confession: We wanted to slap Grace a few times too.)


Sounding Off on Audio
Technically, this isn't an audio link, but it's an interview with Jean Hanff Korelitz all about her love of audiobooks, so it feels right to include it here. Read on for her thoughts on complicated audiobook apps and comedians who narrate their own books.

"Darling...We Do Want This to be Broadcast on NPR."
Jean Hanff Korelitz and her husband, Irish poet Paul Muldoon, describe how they met each other. We won't spoil it, but it's pretty much the opposite of Grace and Jonathan's first meeting at a frat party. Also, they discuss Jean's celebrity crush on the late poet Ted Hughes.


Going International
Scroll down to the bottom of this page on the author's website for a look at You Should Have Known's international covers. Which one is your favorite? Also: Why do so many of them have roses? Did we miss something?

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