Study Guide

You Should Have Known Isolation

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

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Like onions, ogres, or Oreo cookies, the theme of isolation in You Should Have Known has quite a few layers. On the surface level, Grace recognizes she doesn't quite fit in with the Fortune 500 parents at Henry's school and doesn't have many real friends. Digging a little deeper, she realizes that Jonathan intentionally isolated her from his family and her old BFF Vita in order to control how much she knew about him. Of course, when she and Henry leave town, they flee to the lake house in the middle of nowhere and live in literal isolation for a while. Thankfully, by the end of the book, they're beginning to settle in and form friendships, while Jonathan is a fugitive somewhere in Brazil. Serves him right.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Which signs should have clued Grace in to Jonathan's manipulative attempts to isolate her?
  2. When Grace's father comes to visit the lake house and points out how isolated it is, Grace tells him she likes the stillness. Why might she like that at this point in the story?
  3. What steps do Grace and Henry take to break out of their isolation?

Chew on This

Jonathan systematically removes everyone who could tell Grace the truth about him. He tells her that his parents were horrible so she won't insist on meeting them, he competes with Vita for Grace's attention until Vita goes away, and he blames Grace for making it difficult to befriend his coworkers. One would think that a marriage therapist would have recognized these tricks, but Grace remains oblivious.

The physical isolation of the lake house is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it gives Grace some space to process her emotions, but it's also lonely, cold, and depressing, which can't be helpful.

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