Wonderfully flawed and quirky characters full of regret, fear, trauma, love and hope. There is so much to say and so much going on in All Adults Here by Emma Straub, and yet, this is a character- and not a plot-driven story, and my first by the author. I love blogtours like this where I find new-to-me authors, and when I have found one I like as much as this it’s always great. Big thanks to Michael Joseph, their Deputy Publicity Director, the lovely Gaby Young and Netgalley for this ecopy of the book. Receiving it for free did not influence my opinion or review in any way.
When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?
Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.
In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.
68-years-old Astrid is the head of the Strick family and just saw an old acquaintance die. The death itself doesn’t shake her as it probably should, but it does make Astrid think – of rights and wrongs, of her children and her own upbringing, and of the fact that life is, actually, quite short. Little does Astrid know that her children are all more or less in midst of smaller and bigger crises themselves…
A big plus of this book are the deep, sometimes quirky, sometimes odd, but always interesting, characters. I probably loved Porter the most. She never found the ‘right guy,’ and therefore chose to get pregnant another way. I found it interesting to see how she struggled to tell her brothers about it, but her mother seemed to be a whole other topic.
The story itself is set in a small town in the state of New York, and I loved that. Following a small-town-life is one of my favourite things in contemporary novels, and this was a big added plus for me. I also loved that at times, this novel really made me laugh. Adulting is hard, as we all know, and the characters here agree, which leads to multiple lough-out-loud-moments, and takes away from the seriousness of some of the situations.
This novel is not plot-driven, so when you are looking for an action-filled story, you are probably wrong here. However, what you do get is a multi-generational, multi-narrator, character-driven story about a family with ups and downs, happy and sad moments and problems to be solved. Family is what is at the forefront here, and you get the occassional piece of wisdom on top. I loved seing that everyone seems to ‘fake it till they make it,’ and that even people in their 60s might not get everything right. I also loved seing an older character reflect so much about life and about their own personality.
What I didn’t like as much was that at times it all got a bit…much. The characters, all their problems – things that happened to them in the past, issues they are dealing with right now, things they haven’t come to terms with… and that’s all happening in one family. For a character-driven story, I had the feeling that sometimes, not all the characters could be dealt with the proper depth they deserved, but that problem lies in the nature of the whole package: there was simply too much going on at once.
We get adultery, death, sexuality, gender, parental responsibility, familial love, motherly feelings, but also friendship and how the past often very much influences the present and even future. There is a lot going on, and quite a few characters to deal with. In real life you obviously get these same issues – every person has their own life with their own stories and issues, but to get the hang of the storyline it was an added difficulty to follow along so many of them. However, you get invested in these characters and get to know them better and thereby they grow on you.
The author’s writing is quite engaging, despite the fact that the story is a bit all over the place sometimes. Second guesses, problems and regrets are coupled with love, family and second chances in this family drama, as I would call it, and I really like following the Stricks and their multiple stories. 4 stars from me – and I can’t wait to find out more about the author!
Thank you all for reading!