Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy that I won from 5 Minutes for Books
First line: The flight from Newark to Hartford took no more than fifty-eight minutes, but she still managed to get her heart broken three times.
admission: power or permission to enter; acknowledgment that a fact or statement is true
Portia Nathan is an admission officer at Princeton University, traveling throughout the Eastern states visiting high schools and meeting potential Princeton students, touting the glory that is the Ivy League. She spends admission season every year falling in love with all the potential in the applicants, and then goes through the heart-breaking process of deciding which ones will be admitted to Princeton. In her personal life, she has lived with her partner Mark, an English professor, for long enough that most people assume they are married.
Her career and personal life are both put in jeopardy when she visits a small, experimental high school called Quest, and meets John, a man who remembers her from when they both attended Dartmouth. Their one-night affair is the first in a series of events that culminates in Portia having to face a part of her past that she has buried deeply, that no one else knows about.
Initially, I was intimidated by this book’s size; the pages are full of dense prose, in long chapters without breaks. After the first few chapters, though, this ceased to be a problem as I became involved in Portia’s life and intrigued by the insider’s view into the world of Ivy League academia.
Admission is an intricately woven novel; the detailed and fascinating university admission process is described, contrasted with the details of Portia’s life, past and present, revealed during the course of the admission season of one year. Portia’s character could be described as cold or prickly or stand-offish, but I still found her a woman I could empathize with. Her deep secret isn’t difficult to figure out, and yet I didn’t get impatient waiting for its revelation on the page. Interestingly, it is not the admission of her secret to others that brings healing, but her admitting to herself that the secret has had a deep hold on her, coloring every decision and every relationship. The book does not leave every loose end tied up in a happily ever after bow, but does leave the reader with hope and direction.