Author: Emma Straub
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction/Chick Lit, Romance
Note: I received an ARC from Riverheads Books via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.
From the New York Times‒bestselling author of The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college—their own kids now going to college—and what it means to finally grow up well after adulthood has set in.
Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.
Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adults’ lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed.
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions—be they food, or friendship, or music—never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
If I had to describe Modern Lovers in one word it would be lackluster. Emma Straub’s writing was excellent, but the story was lacking excitement.
First, the pace of the book was really slow. There was a lot of conflict brewing between the characters, but nothing big happened until about 50% of the way through the book. Even then, that problem resolved quickly. The story went back to wading through the characters’ everyday lives until approximately 75% when the most interesting and exciting events took place.
Second, I had a hard time connecting to the characters. I empathized with their struggle to find their places in the world post kids, but their personalities drove me nuts. I didn’t like most of them. Elizabeth was so self-centered and could only see situations as they pertained to herself. Andrew loved her, but had no true direction in life. Zoe’s perspective lacked real emotion. Her relationship with Jane was frustrating because there wasn’t much communication between them. Ruby was kind of a mess and it felt like she was just using Harry. Harry was the only one I kind of liked, but he was naïve for a seventeen-year-old.
The only parts of Modern Lovers that I found myself truly interested in reading were the ones about the history of Lydia and Kitty’s Mustache. I wish more of the group’s college days would have been detailed in the book. I think that would have added some of the excitement the book was missing. It may have also helped me like the characters more.
So, would I suggest reading Modern Lovers? Yes and no. If you’re an Emma Straub fan, don’t mind books with a slower pace, or like stories about people with interconnected relationships this one is for you. If you can’t handle a slow-paced book with lots of complex relationships, skip this one.