Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub

Modern LoversIn the spirit of using book club to read things I wouldn’t have already read, I voted against this book for my online book club, saying I’d probably read it anyway. Then I didn’t read it, and then another book club member picked it a few months later, and I was like, well, now this is the book club pick that forces me to read things, so my Book Club Taxonomy (TM) is still intact. Excellent.

This book has so many things going for it. It’s about a group of friends that have known each other since college, who went to college at Oberlin (near where I grew up), who are grownups with practically grownup children who are clinging to their own childhoods in vain, and also there are SECRETS.

I love a good SECRET, and I was quite taken with this book, as well. On the surface, it’s about this group of friends who used to be in a mostly terrible band together, but then the band broke up and one of the members, Lydia, went on to be a mega-star with the band’s one great song before joining the 27 Club. Now Hollywood is making a movie about it but needs the rest of the band to sign off, and although Elizabeth and Zoe are all in, Elizabeth’s now-husband, Andrew, is dragging his feet about it. (Spoiler: because SECRETS.)

As Elizabeth tries to convince Andrew to sign off, we find out that this story is also about Rich People Problems, as all three remaining band members are living comfortably in gentrified Brooklyn off of royalties from their song as well as trust funds and other parental monies. These RPPs take the form of Andrew’s not-gonna-sign-for-the-movie-inspired midlife crisis, which leads to him joining a weird yoga kombucha cult; Zoe maybe possibly finally divorcing her wife, with whom she’s been in a rut for years; and Elizabeth straddling the line between friend and real estate agent while also thinking, if she’s getting a divorce, should I get one, too?

Meanwhile, their high-school children are coming of age for the first time, trying to shed their childhoods rather than hang on to them and getting into mild legal trouble while they’re at it. As you do.

As a person at an age right between this book’s children and adults, I think I may have been in the sweet spot to get hit right in the feels with this novel. The kids’ plot reminded me more or less of my high school days, but especially of the feeling that you’re not the person everyone expects you to be. The adults’ plot goes the other way and gives me future nostalgia for my current happy days, and also gives me more things to tell my husband not to do; i.e., don’t join a yoga cult, don’t forge my signature on legal documents, don’t get bored of me but be so apathetic that you can’t leave me.

Also, and this is something I never say — I loved the epilogue. Instead of “and then all these people did all these things the end”, we get newspaper clippings, which, one, newspapers yay!, and two, I love that the viewpoint of the epilogue is completely disconnected from the very close viewpoint of the rest of the novel. Learn from this, other epilogue writers!

I have already recommended this book to the members of two of my other book clubs (out of four these days, sheesh), and I recommend it highly to you if you are a fan of Rich People Problem books with a slightly silly sensibility.

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