Study Guide

You Should Have Known Chapter Nineteen: The Great Mistake

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

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Chapter Nineteen: The Great Mistake

In this edition of the book, Chapter 19 is pages 320-349.

  • Judgy Grace is back in full force when she enrolls Henry in public school.  
  • She's worried the curriculum will be too easy or that the other students will be "backwoods degenerates, glue-sniffing video game addicts who'd finger her son as an aesthete intellectual" (19.321).  
  • Henry's so excited to get out of the house that she keeps these fears to herself. 
  • After she drops him off, she goes home, gets back in bed, and falls apart.  
  • This pattern becomes her daily ritual for a while, which sounds super depressing but also totally understandable. 
  • Henry makes two new friends at school who are so excited that he shares their love of anime. 
  • Grace has never heard Henry mention anime before, but he says Jonathan took him to see an anime movie in the theater last year.  
  • Note: Hmm. This admission seems like another sign he might not be adjusting as well as Grace thinks he is, but she doesn't pick up on it. 
  • Grace is pleasantly surprised that the public school is academically strong, even ahead of Rearden on some subjects. Who'da thunk it?  
  • Henry wants to try out for the baseball team and is supposed to choose between orchestra, band, or chorus. 
  • Grace chooses orchestra for him, and Henry "nodded glumly" (19.324), as all passionate violinists do. 
  • Toward the end of January, Grace is pulling herself out of her funk and goes to the library to read. 
  • Leo Holland is there, and Grace thinks about how he's brought dinner to their house a few times—leftovers from get-togethers with his band, which is mainly just "midlife string geeks" (19.325). 
  • He reveals that he's a teacher at Bard, and the book he's writing is about Asher Levy, one of the first Jewish landowners in New York. 
  • Leo and Grace commiserate over the loss of their mothers. 
  • Leo's mother died at the lake house, probably of carbon monoxide poisoning. 
  • Grace's mother had a stroke shortly after Grace left for college, fell into a coma, and died after Grace attempted to head back to school.  
  • Grace imagines that her own mother would have told her to be careful and slow down when she was falling in love with Jonathan.  
  • Leo consoles her by saying that her leaving for college had nothing to do with her mother's death. "We are the protagonists of our own lives, so naturally it feels like we're at the wheel. But we're not at the wheel. That just happens to be where the window is located" (19.330). 
  • Grace comments that this sounds like something a therapist would say and tells him that's what she's supposed to be, but she doesn't want to talk about it.  
  • Leo invites her and Henry to dinner again and says he'd love to have Henry sit in with his band. 
  • Grace is getting flustered, so he says he can wait a few weeks before he asks again. 
  • Flirting is probably weird when your murderous husband is running from the law. 
  • Grace leaves the library and is on her way to meet with Vita. Finally
  • She's remembering the past as she drives through small towns on the way to Vita's office.  
  • Vita's the executive director of the Porter Center, a place to help people struggling with eating disorders.  
  • When Vita opens her office door, she calls our protagonist "Gracie," which is nearly as jarring for Grace to hear as it is for us. Nobody's called her that in ages. 
  • Vita's wearing a Hermes scarf they bought together in Grace's honor. 
  • She demonstrates a deep understanding of Grace's personality, saying "I have to warn you because I want you to be ready. I'm going to hug you." 
  • Grace laughs and they hug.  
  • The women reminisce about the past and catch each other up on what's happened in the time they've been apart.  
  • Vita has a family of her own—three kids and a husband who's an environmental litigation attorney—and she's fascinated by how Rearden has changed since she and Grace went there. 
  • Grace remains blunt as ever, saying, "Aren't you mad at me?...I was mad. Are we no longer mad? (19.341)"  
  • Vita says she's more mad at herself. "I think I gave up way too easily. I let him run me out of town. I let you down, I think" (19.341). 
  • Grace is stunned and asks what she means.  
  • Here's what she means: "I let your husband, who upset me and worried me in a very profound way from the moment I met him, separate me from my very close, very beloved friend, and I didn't put up nearly enough of a fight, or—as far as I can remember—even let you know exactly how grave my concerns about him were" (19.341).  
  • She's never forgiven herself and apologizes, saying several therapists have advised her to contact Grace over the years and she never has.  
  • "Well, they say we make the worst patients" (19.341). This might be the truest statement in the book so far. 
  • Vita and Grace discuss the early days of Grace and Jonathan's relationship.
    • Vita understood why Grace had the hots for Jonathan, who was "magnetic, adorable, so smart" (19.341-342).
    • However, she always felt like Jonathan was telling her to back off from Grace, silently projecting This is mine.
    • Ooh, creepy.
    • Vita tried to start over from a neutral perspective, but she still got bad vibes.
    • She waited to see if Grace would feel any of the things she was feeling. Grace didn't.
    • One night when they were both drinking, Vita tried to talk to her about it. That probably went well.
    • She asked Grace why she loved Jonathan and if she was worried at all about how quickly he'd become the most important person in her life.
    • She also pointed out that Grace told him what her perfect person would look like so that's what he became. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!
    • Grace defended Jonathan, saying it wasn't a bad thing to give someone else what he or she needs. (Present-day Grace says the same thing.)
    • After that conversation, Vita tried asking herself why she couldn't see what Grace saw.
    • "He made my heart pound, and not in a good way. And I just couldn't put my finger on it. I couldn't then," she added darkly. "I think I could now" (19.343). 
  • Grace tries to lighten the mood, saying hindsight is 20/20. 
  • Vita says so many of her patients focus on the "Great Mistake" (19.344) they think they've made, but many times it's not that simple.  
  • She points out that Grace's decision to marry Jonathan also brought many wonderful things into her life, like Henry.  
  • Grace is distracted by how different Vita's point of view is from her own philosophy as a therapist. She's always believed people should take ownership of their decisions and recognize how those decisions affect each other.  
  • In other words, she wanted to stop people from making the Great Mistake in the first place.  
  • "I made a Great Mistake. I have no business telling anyone else what to do with their life. I can't imagine how I ever had the arrogance" (19.346). 
  • Vita says that's ridiculous and Grace is a great therapist. Grace asks her how she could possibly know. 
  • Apparently, Vita reviews psychology books for the local paper, and she received an advance copy of Grace's book. She may not agree with everything in it, just like Grace wouldn't agree with everything if she wrote a book, but Grace's care for her patients is obvious. 
  • Grace says it's just her telling people they screwed up.  
  • Vita disagrees. "But as someone who works with patients who are grappling with horrendously powerful addictions, let me tell you that giving them kindness alone is like giving them an overcooked noodle and sending them off to slay a dragon" (19.348). 
  • Vita offers to help her join a group practice in Great Barrington, and Grace is caught off guard, having essentially given up on her therapy career.  
  • She tells Vita she's not sure if she's ready, and Vita says it's an open offer. 
  • Vita has been following the story in the news and can't imagine what "Gracie" must be going through, but she thought she might need an old friend. 
  • Grace thanks her and realizes she needs to go pick Henry up. 
  • Vita asks if she still needs to warn Grace before she hugs her. Grace laughs and says yes.

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