All Adults Here by Emma Straub is a lighthearted examination of an American family.
Oftentimes, family saga type stories are intense and at times, even disturbing. Something I appreciate about Emma Straub’s books is while she does cover a wide variety of topics, she never loses the warmth and humor in her family stories. This makes her family sagas much more readable and honestly, enjoyable.
So prior to reading All Adults Here, I saw some negative reviews—mainly people calling the book “boring.” I highly disagree that the book is boring, there’s for sure a ton going on! But it’s quite introspective so maybe that’s what people had an issue with it. I still thought it was a fast read and ended up going through the entire book in one day.
I like all her stories but I have to say, I think All Adults Here is my favorite of hers. It’s the kind of book that makes for a fantastic summer read.
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.
Oh the Strick family is quite interesting and complicated in many ways! Astrid is head of the family and she was fairly strict and disciplined with her children—the opposite of a warm and fuzzy mother. But it’s not too late for her to learn lessons and by truly accepting who she is, she can learn to be more open and loving to her children.
She has three children: Elliot, the oldest and the most intense; Porter, the middle child who isn’t quite ready to grow up and Nicky, the youngest and most charismatic but also a little lost. Each of them have a different dynamic and level of closeness or distance. Out of the all the kids, we follow Nicky the least and I think I would have liked to learn a bit more about him but that’s okay as the focus was more on his daughter Cecelia.
All of them have quite interesting character developments. There’s a storyline with Porter that I didn’t love but I understand it was part of her growth process.
Sexuality and gender
This book goes beyond sibling dynamics and also takes an in-dept look at sexuality and gender. Emma Straub handles both topics with care and I liked seeing this in such a mainstream book. She doesn’t shy away from serious topics but again, her writing style is light and full of heart.
In the end, this is a book about people doing the best they can and learning that growing up never stops, even when you’re an adult.
Check out my book club questions here.