“All Adults Here” by Emma Straub

All Adults Here

Genre: Domestic Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Group
Pub. Date: May 4, 2020

“All Adults Here” celebrates families and the communities we live in. With humor and insight, the author creates a dysfunctional family worth cheering on.  Straub reminds us that we should not be so hard on ourselves, because aren’t all families a bit dysfunctional?  “Adults” has similarities to Elizabeth Strout’s “Olive Kitteridge.” In both novels, the protagonist is an older woman living in a small town where nothing and everything happens.  Both authors have a gift for zooming in on ordinary moments of ordinary people, which makes the reader reflect on the highs and lows in their own ordinary life.

In the present, she finds herself in a lesbian relationship that she has trouble admitting to herself, never mind to her children and to her friends. The novel is not about a lesbian partnership. Still, when the protagonist acknowledges her sexuality she grows as a person and her relationship with her children improves. Straub is exploring the fact that humans can grow at any age. This is the core of the novel. With a sharp eye for her characters’ shortcomings, she writes “Being an adult was like always growing new layers of skin, trying to fool yourself that the bones underneath were different too.”  

Although Straub takes on numerous issues:  sexuality, gender, politics, abortion, school bullying, the subject matter never seems heavy-handed. The writing is filled with a certain sweetness as well as moments of comic release. “This was the job of a parent: to fuck up, over and over again. This was the job of a child: to grow up anyway.” The only criticism that this reviewer can find is that the feel-good mood, optimistic view set in the tale suggests most things will work out in the end. In reality that is not always true. Still, this multi-generational saga is a very good heartwarming read.

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