All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Available from all Good Bookshops and Online
What They Say..
Coming of age isn’t just for kids.
Astrid Strick has always tried to do her best for her three children. Now, they’re finally grown up – but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
Elliott doesn’t have any idea who he really is, or how to communicate with his own sons. Porter is, at last, pregnant – but feels incapable of rising to the challenge. Nicky has fled to distant New Mexico, where he’s living the bohemian dream.
And Astrid herself is up to things that would make her children’s hair curl.
Until now, the family have managed to hide their true selves from each other. But when Nicky’s incorrigibly curious daughter Cecelia comes to stay, her arrival threatens to upturn everything . . .
What I Say
Let me start this blog post by making a confession to you all. I had never read any Emma Straub before All Adults Here. If I tell you that during reading it I had to tell Gaby at Michael Joseph how brilliant it is, and that I have just ordered Emma’s novel Modern Lovers, that should give you some indication as to how much I loved this book. I was also going to do a video review for this blog tour, but after several (five) failed attempts, it seems that the only way I can articulate how much I loved this novel is to write it down.
Why did All Adults Here resonate so much with me so quickly? I just loved the characters in this novel. Emma’s skill in her writing is that she builds up a world where you can vividly see them as they are if they are existing in ours. Every page adds another layer of understanding and connection between Astrid Strick and her children. They do things that all of us do – the everyday and mundane, they worry about each other, and often try to find the right words to talk to each other too, whilst all the time trying to navigate their way through their own lives the best they can.
Astrid is the matriarch of the family, and having lost her husband Russell a while ago, she is starting to realise that although she loved him, perhaps it is only now that she can really start to be herself as oppose to a wife and a mother. Her children, Porter, Elliott and Nicky have all made lives for themselves, but perhaps not in the way that Astrid would have expected. Porter, desperate for a child has decided to use a sperm donor to ensure she becomes a mother. Elliott is married to Wendy, and they have twin sons – but Elliott is finding it hard to adapt to fatherhood, and he and Wendy are struggling to communicate. Nicky and his wife Juliette and their daughter Cecelia haven’t seen Astrid for a while, and after Cecelia is bullied for protecting her classmate from a man they met on the internet, the decision is made to send Cecelia to live with Astrid for a while to give her the distance and stability she needs. It is interesting to see how when Cecelia is away from her parents and free to be who she wants, that she not only finds her voice again, but also makes a friendship with August that will change their lives for ever.
This is what worked so well for me about All Adults Here. The children may have grown up, but they still need care and reassurance from Astrid. When Astrid witnesses the death of her friend Barbara, she realises life is too short and decides to make certain decisions about her future that cause different reactions in each of her children – including telling them that she is in a relationship with her female hairdresser called Birdie. Astrid also realises she has not been the best mother to her children, and that she needs to address this with each of her children – but especially Elliott before it is too late.
For me, the novel also unflinchingly addressed many issues in an engaging and emotional way- there is adultery, the notion of parenting and motherhood, gender and sexuality, and ultimately how difficult it can be to stand up and tell people how you really feel, and what you really want – however old you are. It is touching to see Astrid attempt to reach her children by being open, but also to see how each child struggles with the different recollections of their childhood and relationship with their parents and each other too. Little by little, we learn not only about Astrid and her past, but each character is given the chance to absolutely come into their own, and we can start to understand why they behave as they do.
If you are looking for a novel packed with twists and revelations, then All Adults Here is probably not for you. I am a huge fan of novels about families – and for me, the more dysfunctional the better! Astrid, Porter, Elliot, Nicky, but especially for me Cecelia, are beautifully written characters, whose lives may seem far from our own, but just like us they have the same worries and concerns, and that is what makes this novel so special.
Emma Straub’s writing is tender, nuanced and understated, which packs such an emotional punch when you least expect it. I could have quite happily spent far more time with this family – and would love to see a sequel..!
All Adults Here is an intelligent and sensitive novel, that recognises we all may lead seemingly disparate and different lives, but understands absolutely that at the end of the day, our greatest need is to feel that we belong somewhere and with someone.
I absolutely loved it.
Thank you so much to Gaby Young at Michael Joseph for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review and a place on the Blog Tour.
Please do check out what these other fabulous bloggers are saying too..