by Jean Hanff Korelitz
In her novel, Admission (Grand Central, 2009), Jean Hanff Korelitz tells two intertwining stories: one is an inside look at the world of the admissions process at an elite American university; the other is about what happens when we consciously try to erase a part of our past. Portia Nathan has something in her past that she’s kept secret for almost two decades. She’s never told Mark, her partner of 16 years, she’s never confided in her close friend Rachel, or her mother, the uber–feminist Susannah, and she’s certainly never shared it with her colleagues at Princeton University, where she works as an admissions officer. There’s never been a real need to. Not until, that is, she runs into John Halsey, a fellow Dartmouth grad and a teacher at an experimental school in New Hampshire (where she’s gone on a recruiting trip) and meets his brilliant but eccentric student, Jeremiah, whom she encourages to apply to Princeton. Her encounter with John and Jeremiah sets into motion a series of events that eventually forces Portia to acknowledge that choices she made years ago are about to influence how she’s going to choose to live in the present. I’ve always enjoyed Korelitz’s novels. She’s written three before Admission, including A Jury of Her Peers, Sabbathday River, and her most lighthearted, The White Rose. They are each marked by her warmth and her ability to make her characters real to us, so that we forgive them their flaws and their often less–than–perfect decisions.