Study Guide

You Should Have Known Isolation

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

Isolation

"I'm sorry," Sylvia said. "I went through this with a client once. We had a little more time." (14.251)

When Sylvia rescues Grace from the judgmental swarm of Rearden moms, Grace realizes how isolated she is—not just from the gossipy bunch she's leaving behind, but also from Sylvia, who she considered a friend even though she barely knew what she did for a living.

"Jonathan trumped Vita." (16.278)

If your partner ever becomes so important in your life that you no longer care about your lifelong best friend's opinions, it may be time to re-examine your choices in relationships.

Who (and she made herself, deliberately, complete this thought) would knowingly be counseled by an expert on marriage whose husband had become involved with another woman? Or had a child with that woman? Or, in fact, murdered that woman? Or had stolen, lied, abandoned his wife in a scorched earth of incalculable...well, not pain, exactly. (17.292)

Grace feels completely cut off from everything she once held dear (besides Henry) after Jonathan disappears. Her husband is gone, her reputation is trashed, her career is in shambles. It's safe to say she feels incredibly isolated in this moment.

Grace, of course, had been an only child herself. She hadn't exactly been inflated to world-saving stature by her mother and father, and she had often been lonely...Sometimes, at Vita's labyrinthine apartment on East 96th Street, she had stood out in the hallway and just let the sounds of movement and argument (usually argument) among Vita's three brothers wash over her. That, in a complete negation of her own family, had become what family was supposed to be. (2.50)

Although Grace judges parents of only children, was an only child, and has an only child, she's always envied people who have a strong, tight-knit support system. Maybe that's why it's not too difficult for her to move on from her NYC life once she finds a community of her own in Connecticut.

"How long are we staying?" Henry asked. "How long is a piece of string?" This was how she tended to answer unanswerable questions. (16.281)

First of all, "How long is a piece of string?" is a maddeningly vague answer, so we really empathize with Henry in this moment. The exchange also emphasizes how isolated Grace and Henry are—they don't even have a plan for when things might start getting back to normal. It's just the two of them against the world.

"I'd really rather you weren't living like this," he said seriously, as if this were a radical notion. No s***. She nearly laughed, but actually it was when she thought of her own home, her own life in the city, that she began to be frantic. This...there was stillness, and naturally isolation, and of course it was cold as hell, but it wasn't the screaming hell that came over her when she thought of back there. She couldn't go back there. (18.307)

Here Grace recognizes the silver lining to living like a hermit: It gives her some space from the public aftermath of Jonathan's crimes. She can't hide from her problems forever, but it's nice not to have constant reminders of those problems shoved in her face by a horde of eager reporters every day.

"He was adorable, and so smart. But when he looked at me, and I mean even back on that first night, remember? When I came downstairs to look for you, and there you two were in the hallway? When he looked at me, it was like he was saying, You watch yourself. This is mine." (19.342)

No wonder Vita disappeared from Grace's life after she married Jonathan. We'd hightail it as far away as possible from anyone who gave us the creeps as much as he did for Grace's BFF. Side note: Vita also says she tried to talk to Grace about her concerns, but Grace was too oblivious to see what she saw. Jonathan really must have been a master manipulator.

Jonathan had openly adored and valued her, encouraged her, supported her, given her unceasing affection, given her Henry. He had been—God, the cliche of it—her best friend. Actually, she thought with a new wave of sadness, what he had been was her only friend. He had made sure of that, by parting her from Vita, by encouraging her disapproval of anyone else who came along. No one was worthy of Grace—that was the message. No one deserved her except himself. (22.394)

For a crash course in how abusive partners manipulate their significant others, look no further than this quote. Jonathan kept Grace away from anyone and everyone who might have seen through his duplicitous life, whether that meant pushing away Vita, freezing out his own family, or sabotaging friendly relationships with his co-workers.

What was she supposed to say? That not one friend or acquaintance from what she now laughingly thought of as her "past" had troubled themselves to come after her? She knew this was true...The idea of it—the power of that—was just breathtaking. (18.305)

In this moment, Grace realizes just how shallow her connections to anyone in NYC truly were. None of the women she might have considered friends have even bothered to call her and see how she's doing—not even Sylvia, who did at least help her create an escape plan. That must be an incredibly lonely feeling.

You shouldn't fly here. I know you know that. There are places a few hours away, where you can rent a car. Please be very sure that no one follows you...I'll look for you. Please do this for me. And if you won't, or can't, please know that I have never loved anyone else, and won't ever love anyone else, and I'll be okay. (23.420)

Jonathan's entire letter is manipulative as all get out, but this section in particular takes the cake. Once again, we see Jonathan acting like nobody else is good enough for either of them, so now their only choice is to isolate themselves from the entire world. Thankfully, Grace is wise to Jonathan's game now and disregards everything he writes.