Book club questions for All Adults Here by Emma Straub examines all the characters and story developments in this entertaining read. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review first.
I really enjoyed this one! As I mentioned in my review, I really like how Emma Straub tackles the family saga genre. Oftentimes, it’s so heavy and depressing and her lighter touch is a much needed relief. But of course, she still covers serious topics at the same time.
Jenna Bush Hager picked this for her book club and she said that “in a time when all we want is hope, it’s a beautiful book to reach for.” I can see what she’s saying there about the story— curious to hear what you all think about it!
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 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.
Book Club Questions for All Adults Here
- The story starts off with Astrid witnessing Barbara struck and killed in a school bus accident. How did this impact Astrid going forward?
- She becomes quite fixated on Barbara—despite saying that she never really liked her. But we later learn that the reason behind Astrid’s dislike is because Barbara stumbled upon Astrid’s son Elliot and another teenager boy kissing. When she told Astrid, her response was that she was mistaken and then she snapped at Elliot to not do that in public. This is a huge scene in the novel—why do you think Astrid responded like this? Why do you think Astrid blamed Barbara for her own behavior toward Elliot?
- We learn quickly that Astrid is in love with Birdie, a woman. What do you think was the catalyst for her to finally embrace who she truly is?
- Astrid announced to her grown up kids that she’s bisexual. Her children all respond differently. Let’s talk about their different reactions and this big moment for Astrid.
- Porter decides to have a child by IVF but in many ways, she’s still immature despite being in her late 30s. What do you think was behind her decision to continue the affair with her high school boyfriend Jeremy? Do you think it was unrealistic for her to think they would have a future?
- Elliot is the serious one and stressed out. He really wants to get the approval of Astrid but feels like he’s always falling short. What was behind Elliot’s push to get approval from his mom? Do you think no matter your age, you always want your parents approval?
- Cecelia is Astrid’s granddaughter. Nicky sends her to live with Astrid after Cecelia experiences some bullying at her old school. Let’s talk about Cecelia’s storyline and how she bonded with August/Robin. How did they help see the best in each other?
- This book covers birth order and how parents can treat each child differently, even in adulthood. Do you think birth order has an impact on people’s relationship with their parents?
- Could you relate to any of the sibling or parent dynamics in this story?
- What do you think the title—All Adults Here—mean in context to the story?
- The story’s tagline is “coming of age isn’t just for kids.” Do you agree with this?
- Clapham is a small town where everyone knows each other’s business. If you do live in a small town, what are some things you like and dislike about it? If you don’t live in a small town, do you think it sounds appealing or do you prefer city life?
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
My favorite book of the year so far is The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett!
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.
The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin
The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin is another good one for book clubs.
It’s 2 A.M. on a Saturday night in the spring of 2001, and twenty-eight-year-old Cecily Gardner sits alone in a dive bar in New York’s East Village, questioning her life. Feeling lonesome and homesick for the Midwest, she wonders if she’ll ever make it as a reporter in the big city—and whether she made a terrible mistake in breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Matthew.
As Cecily reaches for the phone to call him, she hears a guy on the barstool next to her say, “Don’t do it—you’ll regret it.” Something tells her to listen, and over the next several hours—and shots of tequila—the two forge an unlikely connection. That should be it, they both decide the next morning, as Cecily reminds herself of the perils of a rebound relationship. Moreover, their timing couldn’t be worse—Grant is preparing to quit his job and move overseas. Yet despite all their obstacles, they can’t seem to say goodbye, and for the first time in her carefully constructed life, Cecily follows her heart instead of her head.
Then Grant disappears in the chaos of 9/11. Fearing the worst, Cecily spots his face on a missing-person poster, and realizes she is not the only one searching for him. Her investigative reporting instincts kick into action as she vows to discover the truth. But the questions pile up fast: How well did she really know Grant? Did he ever really love her? And is it possible to love a man who wasn’t who he seemed to be?