Korelitz, Jean Hanff 1961–
Korelitz, Jean Hanff 1961–
PERSONAL: Born May 16, 1961, in New York, NY; daughter of Burton I. (a doctor) and Ann (a therapist in social work) Korelitz; married Paul Muldoon (a writer), August 30, 1987; children: one daughter, one son. Education: Dartmouth College, B.A. (cum laude), 1983; Clare College, Cambridge, M.A., 1985.
CAREER: Writer, novelist, poet, and educator. Freelance writer, 1979–. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc. (publisher), New York City, editorial assistant, 1987–88; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, instructor in Division of Continuing Education, 1990–. Editorial intern for Seventeen magazine, summer, 1979; summer intern of American Society of Magazine Editors for Glamour magazine, 1982.
AWARDS, HONORS: Named among "top ten college women for 1983" by Glamour magazine; Marguerite Eyer Wilbur Foundation fellow, 1985; Harper-Wood Studentship for Creative Writing and Chancellor's Medal for Poetry, both from Cambridge University, both 1985; resident at MacDowell Colony, 1988 and 1989.
A Jury of Her Peers, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 1996.
The Sabbathday River, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1999.
Interference Powder, Marshall Cavendish (New York, NY), 2003.
The White Rose, Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2005.
The Properties of Breath (poems), Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), 1988.
Contributor of articles to magazines and periodicals, including Vogue, Real Simple, More, Organic Style, Newsweek, O, Redbook, New York Times, and Lifetime.
SIDELIGHTS: Jean Hanff Korelitz is a novelist, poet, and educator. Her first novel, A Jury of Her Peers, is a "fast-moving legal thriller," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Sybylla Muldoon, a legal aid attorney in New York, is assigned to defend Trent, a homeless man accused in the vicious stabbing death of a seven-year-old girl. Trent tells a fanciful story of being kidnapped and held against his will in a hospital. Though committed to the defense of her clients, Sybylla finds the story difficult to believe. However, when a mysterious implant is removed from Trent's arm, it is discovered to be a time-release device full of LSD, lending credibility to Trent's story and possibly explaining the once-gentle man's seeming mental illness and descent into murder. Before she can use this information, however, Trent dies, and Sybylla becomes aware that she is in danger herself. Worse, her predicament seems linked to a recent nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court—Sybylla's own father. The Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book an "accomplished first novel." Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan concluded that the work is "a suspenseful and tautly rendered legal drama." Korelitz's "convincing characterization, vigorous prose and rapid-fire pacing deliver thoughtful entertainment along with the promised thrills," the Publishers Weekly reviewer stated.
When Naomi Roth, the protagonist of The Sabbathday River, moved to Goddard, New Hampshire, in the 1970s, she was a VISTA volunteer looking to make a difference in the world. She stayed on to found a crafts cooperative. Decades later, she is still in Goddard and the cooperative is flourishing. Most popular among the cooperative's products is the extraordinary embroidery work of Heather Pratt, a local girl haunted by an affair with a married man, Ashley Deacon, and the illegitimate child she had by him. When Naomi finds the stabbed body of an infant floating in the Sabbathday River, the townsfolk are quick to assume that it is Heather's, and that she has slain her unwanted second child. Naomi steps forward to assist and defend Heather, convincing a newly arrived attorney, Judith Friedman, to defend the young woman in court. Heather is not the only one, however, who will be seared by the shocking and emotionally wrenching case. Korelitz touches on many themes in the novel, noted Emily Melton in Booklist, including friendship, Judaism, and the unique experience of being a modern woman, but "it all works together brilliantly as a combination suspense thriller, courtroom drama, and cautionary morality tale." "Smart and engrossing, this thriller addresses the complex morality behind its characters' behavior with gravity and deep humanity," observed a Publishers Weekly critic. Melton called the novel a "powerful tale of obsession and murder with a searing examination of human nature."
Interference Powder is a fanciful tale about what happens when a young girl acquires the ability to rework the world as she chooses. When Nina Zabin receives a low grade on her social studies test, she copes by painting a picture of herself getting a perfect score. Finding a bottle of interference powder—ground-up mica that artists sometimes use to add shimmer to paintings—among her substitute teacher's art supplies, she adds a bit of the substance to the painting of herself, and finds her world transformed. Her test score morphs into the perfect result found in her painting. To her surprise, Nina learns that her superior test performance now means she must represent her class in an all-school history contest. She thinks the powder will help her through, and it does, to a point, with unexpected and undesired results. Among the effects: Nina's sudden inability to speak without the words coming forth in song, and the ability to cause a flood merely by crying. A child psychologist advises Nina to use the magic powder one last time, to fix all the problems it has caused. "Despite the magical element, this is largely realistic fiction about knowing oneself and being true to one's dreams," observed Barbara Auerback in the School Library Journal. Booklist contributor Todd Morning commented that "the novel has a winning central character and some funny scenes that many young readers will enjoy."
In The White Rose, forty-eight-year-old Marian Kahn is married, a successful history professor at Columbia University, and the author of a bestselling book of popular history. Middle-aged steadfastness gives way to youthful indiscretion when she plunges into a sultry affair with twenty-six-year-old Oliver Stern, son of Marian's oldest friend. Oliver, the owner of a popular flower shop called The White Rose, is thoroughly smitten with Marian, but when he meets Sophie Klein, a graduate student and heiress, his emotions and commitments clash. Complicating matters is the fact that Sophie is engaged to Barton Ochstein, Marian's ar-rogant cousin. Marian and Oliver must contend with the disintegration of their still-strong emotional attachments while Sophie and Barton reconsider their commitment. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "elegant and melancholy yet surprisingly optimistic, warmed by full-bodied characterizations and expert delineation of complex emotions." A Publishers Weekly writer concluded that, "even when their own comfort is at stake, Korelitz's characters succumb to generous impulses, making this a satisfying, emotionally rich read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1996, Margaret Flanagan, review of A Jury of Her Peers, p. 1121; March 15, 1999, Emily Melton, review of The Sabbathday River, p. 1291; October 15, 2003, Todd Morning, review of Interference Powder, p. 412.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2004, review of The White Rose, p. 884.
Publishers Weekly, February 5, 1996, review of A Jury of Her Peers, p. 76; February 8, 1999, review of The Sabbathday River, p. 193; November 15, 2004, review of The White Rose, p. 39.
School Library Journal, December, 2003, Barbara Auerbach, review of Interference Powder, p. 153.
Times Literary Supplement, August 4, 1989, Tim Dooley, review of The Properties of Breath, p. 850.
Pan Macmillan, http://www.panmacmillan.com/ (October 31, 2005), biography of Jean Hanff Korelitz.