When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?
Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is intentionally pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.
In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.
Thank you to Riverhead Books and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warnings: Miscarriage/infertility, abortion, cheating, online pedophilia, bullying, transphobia, death, and probably a few others I can’t think of. Proceed with caution.
I managed to read this whole book in one sitting. It’s such a simply written yet complex novel about a family getting to know each other better. They all have secret baggage that they don’t want to reveal out of fear they’ll be judged.
The book opens with Astrid Strick, who witnesses Barbara Baker get hit by a bus, ultimately ending her life. Astrid was just getting ready to go in for her routine haircut when it happened. She was watching the small town of Clapham come alive—window shoppers, coffee drinkers, shop owners prepping their opening.
People their age—Astrid’s and Barbara’s—were too old for it to be outright tragedy, and seeing as Barbara had no children of her own, people were bound to call it a blessing, that is to say, a blessing that the school bus hadn’t run down someone else. But that didn’t seem fair to Barbara. She’d had a husband, and cats. She’d been a crossing guard at the elementary school decades earlier—oh, the irony!
It makes Astrid think about her life, and how much she loves her hairdresser Birdie. A secret she has never shared with her family. There is a bit of guilt because she was married to her husband Russell for so long. She didn’t even struggle as hard at his funeral. Now she has Birdie in her life, and she isn’t sure if it’s romance or her need for company.
Was that romance or co-dependence, the overwhelming need for another person in order to properly function?
Cecelia is Astrid’s granddaughter who has an addiction to the internet, allowing her to get involved with online pedophilia. She jokes around about going to her “Gammy’s” house for the year, but her parents agree. Her father is Nicky Strick, Astrid’s youngest son, and he’s married to Juliette, who is French. They both take a passive view with parenting. Her mother was a dancer who smoked, and her father became a Buddhist, and spent a year in a monastery in Tibet.
Cecelia becomes friends with August, who I will mention later in the review, and helps him become who he really wants to be.
Porter is Astrid’s daughter. She graduated from Hampshire College, but ended up moving back to Clapham. She weirdly inherited her friend’s land and goats. Porter’s baggage? She wants to have a baby on her own, so she decides that the sperm bank is where it’s at.
It was hard to decide which was more off-putting; a man donating sperm just to make some cash or a man donating sperm because he liked the idea of having lots of children borne by strange women.
She struggles to think that her father won’t be there to meet his grandchild. He would have been more than grandpa but gramps, gamps, pops, popsy.
Porter also struggled as the middle child. It always felt like her brothers got all the praise, Elliot being the oldest, and Nicky being the youngest.
August is an eighth grader who loves going to camp for the summer. It helps him forget about all the kids he goes to school with. His parents always want to talk about what’s going on in his life, and it gets a bit annoying. August is also a bit confused and sad.
Here is a brief list of what it (being alive) was like: Being a naked person in Times Square. Being a naked person in the middle of the cafeteria. Being a hermit crab scurrying along the ocean floor in search of a new shell. Being a baby turtle in the middle of a six-lane highway. That didn’t begin to cover all the ways August felt weird and strange and wrong every day.
It’s very hard to read about an eighth grader dealing with these problems. They should be having fun with their friends and family. His struggle? He’s confused about whether he should actually be she or not.
This was what the Sullivans did. They bought old things by the bushel and, through their touch, transformed them into something desirable, something new. August wished that his parents could work their magic on him too.
Elliot is married to Wendy, and they have two boys, Aidan and Zachary. He learns that his mother is in a romantic relationship with another woman; he flips. He is confused as to how he would explain it to his boys.
Yes, this book deals with a lot of different hot topics. What I liked most is that she didn’t make it a big deal, and honestly, they should be explored with more ease. These are real-life situations that can happen to anyone. Don’t sit there and tell me that they won’t or can’t. Was it a little long for what it was? Yeah, maybe. Did I only care about certain characters? Yeah, but that didn’t take away the enjoyment. It wasn’t a five-star read, but I thought it was still a great book. The writing isn’t special, but it proved a point. If you’re interested, then go pick it up!
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