REVIEW: All Adults Here by Emma Straub

In brief: When Astrid experiences a tragedy, she decides it’s time to come clean about a secret she’s keeping. But her grown children also have secrets they need to share…

The good: The complex family story reminded me a little of Anne Tyler’s novels.

The not-so-good: Took a while to warm to some characters.

Why I chose it: Enjoy Emma Straub’s writings.

Year: 2020

Pages: 338

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Setting: Hudson Valley, New York

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

All Adults Here is a book about a grown-up family in country New York, all with secrets from each other that make things more complex. There are multiple characters and issues here, and it took me a while to warm to some characters and understand their motivations. But overall, I enjoyed the story which reminded me of Anne Tyler’s novels (but with more characters, who were messier and fewer resolutions at the end).

The story revolves around the Strick family and their own families and friends. Astrid is the matriarch, who knows their small-town Clapham from one end to the other. Her family has been there for generations and Astrid doe not want any change. Yet Astrid has a secret of her own, and after witnessing a tragedy on the main street, it leads her to start considering revealing her own secrets, some dating back decades. For Astrid’s children, they both love and tolerate their mother’s ways. Elliott feels secretly like a failure, but holds the key to changing the small town forever. Will his mother forgive him if he does? His wife is bored and their twins are more than rambunctious. For middle child Porter, she’s pregnant on her own but has taken up with her high school boyfriend – despite his marriage. Nicky is the only one who doesn’t live in Clapham, but has sent daughter Cecelia to live with Astrid after an incident at her school. All the Stricks appear to be running away from something that they need to face – and face it they will by the end of the book.

There is a lot going on in All Adults Here. It’s not just Astrid and her children that have significant page time devoted to them, but Cecelia and her school friend August and their teacher Rachel (who happens to be a high school friend of Porter’s) amongst others. Not all the plot threads are tied up- for example, we never find out if Rachel chose forget it or forgiveness and what did Elliott do with his plan to revolutionise the town? Nicky appeared to have an epiphany in realising he had been a poor parent, but did he do much about it? Did the twins finally destroy everything in their path? What happened to Cecelia’s local nemesis? It’s the power of the characters, who are not all likeable (Astrid especially was quite annoying in her righteous ways for the first half of the book) that gave me enjoyment for this novel. The plot carried perhaps too much for one novel, touching on many topics, but not exploring them all fully. Perhaps fewer topics would have made the story focus on the Stricks more rather than half the townspeople. The plot isn’t overly fast paced, but the characters made up for it. The novel is easy enough to read, but sometimes I just wasn’t drawn to read more. It’s a book better read in big chunks so the characters and their issues can be kept straight in your head.

Enjoyable, but I would recommend Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures over All Adults Here.

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