All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Random House: 5/4/20
eBook review copy; 368 pages
All Adults Here by Emma Straub is a so-so family drama.
After 68-year-old Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in
the center of Clapham, N.Y., she realizes that life is uncertain
so she decides to share with her family her big secret. She is bi-sexual
and for the last two years she has been in a romantic relationship with
her hairdresser, Birdie. But her three grown children and her
granddaughter have plenty of secrets of their own. Her daughter,
thirty-seven-year-old Porter, is pregnant via a sperm bank but has
started a affair with an old boyfriend. Elliott, the oldest son, has
some secret business deal in the works and he and his wife are trying to cope with hyperactive toddler twins.
Nicky, the youngest son, and his
wife have sent their only child, 13-year-old Cecilia, up to
live with Astrid after an incident at her Brooklyn school
involving online pedophilia. And Cecilia's new friend in town,
August, wants to be known as Robin, but middle school is tough enough
without coming out as a transsexual.
Straub throws just about every social issue she can into this novel,
much to the detriment of the actual narrative and character development.
Issues touched upon include: aging, sexuality, gender identity,
bullying, in vetro fertilization, sexual predators, adultery, and
parenting issues - to name a few. The characters are dealing with so
many issues that they are all one-dimensional characters. This approach
left this reader wondering if the whole point of the novel was to have a
cursory introduction of every possible issue Straub could add in lieu
of an actual well-developed plot and fully developed characters.
The novel starts out strong and the writing had moment of great
clarity, but then yet another social issue was added. The story began to
meander. I wish Straub had focused on a few of her characters in depth
and fully developed them while examining the effect their secrets had on
their relationships and the family. I struggled to finish this one. I
felt that Astrid's revelation about her and Birdie's relationship along
with the stories of Cecilia and August would have been enough. It might
have made a nice comparison between grandmother and granddaughter
dealing with their feelings and relationships and allowed more
development of their characters along with plot advancement.
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin