All Adults Here by Emma Straub


This book was touted as a good choice for our stressful times and it worked for me — no bad surprises, characters are predictable and engaging. I was quite happy to have them as companions as I cooked and did other routine chores.

It’s not that the characters didn’t have their difficulties and traumas. The book opens with Astrid, a widowed matron present at the gruesome death of a woman she had known (and disliked) for 40 years when she was hit by a school bus as she crossed the street. Barbara’s sudden death makes the self-assured Astrid think again about some of her choices. School buses are everywhere, Astrid thinks, so maybe she should make some course corrections.

There’s Porter, Astrid’s 38-year-old daughter who owns a goat farm operation supplying cheese far and wide. She has concluded she won’t be finding a partner any time soon, so she is pregnant using a sperm donor. Astrid reacts as if Porter had taken up heroin use, but we all know Astrid will change her tune. Then there’s Porter’s occasional coupling with her high school boyfriend who is married with two kids. Could that pose any problems in the small town?

Astrid’s granddaughter by her son Nick is sent to stay with Astrid in small town upstate New York. Cecilia is a middle school kid who, because she blew the whistle on her friend’s dangerous behavior, is shunned by her friends. She’s perhaps the most appealing of the characters, having made a brave choice and dealing with grace with the insecurities of all those around her.

Wendy, wife of Astrid’s oldest son, is unappealingly restrained–yogurt for lunch out with the ravenous Porter–but eventually it is recognized that she truly does love being married to Elliot and insists on being his business partner too.

Chief among Astrid’s choices that Barbara’s suddenly death prompts her to talk about is her long time affair with her hairdresser Birdie. When she announces this at a family gathering, there’s chortling from one and outrage from another. But after all, we’re all adults here, so everyone will just keep moving.

Emma Straub, All Adults Here, Riverhead Books, 2020, 368 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the public library.

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