Book Review – Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

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Timing was everything—that was more and more obvious the older you got, when you finally understood that the universe wasn’t held together in any way that made sense. There was no order, there was no plan. It was all about what you’d had for breakfast, and what kind of mood you were in when you walked down a certain hallway, and whether the person who tried to kiss you had good breath or bad.

Rating: 3/5

I left New York for the week I read this to get some time away from the big city. If you’ve lived here for as long as I’ve lived here (13 years), you may have some of the feelings that I do. My vacation in the summer is meant to alleviate some of that stress from my life for a little while. Unbeknownst to me, that stress would follow me to Florida.

Plot Summary (from Goodreads)- 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.

My Review – I needed a few days to digest this book before I had a chance to write up the review. I think my main hesitation from writing this up quickly was that I didn’t want to sound like a ranting hormonal bitch while I did it.

It’s like watching American Beauty and…

…wait. This is exactly the plot of American Beauty. Geeez.

The story is about aging hipsters who feel like they’ve run out of options and lost out on something big when they were younger. It just seems so overdone. There’s the guy struggling to make something of himself, the lesbians who are trying to make their relationship work while running their little restaurant together, the middle aged woman who made a career out of being a real estate agent when she could have been something else like a rock star. And then the dead rock star who lived as much of her life as possible until she died at the age of 27. It’s like everyone in the book somehow wants to be able to go back in time, do drugs, and be that dead lady.

And the young people, well, they were just starting to understand the feelings that they had for each other. The gun-shy boy who always did the right thing suddenly does the wrong thing. The slutty girl who finally opens up to her emotions. It’s pretty much American Beauty minus the twist ending.

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Where is the plot here? What is the catalyst to move this story forward? There were a few hints of a plot line throughout the book, but ultimately this just felt like a “day in the life of some Brooklynites.”

Emma Straub is one of those authors that I always end up reading their books. Regardless of what the book is about, I’ll ineventually read it. Every time I pick up a book by Emma Straub, I’m always dazzled and fascinated to find out what she’s written. I’ve read Lara Lamott’s Life in Pictures and The Vacationers. I wasn’t too thrilled with either of these, but with a new year, I figured this would be a hit.



There was no fate. Life was just happenstance and luck, bound together by the desire for order

I was so sorely disappointed with this book. I honestly feel that giving it three stars out of five was generous. The theme I got from this entire book was that growing up was/is hard, marriage is hard, everything is hard and you have to deal with it. What Straub lacks in plot development she makes up in quotes. I’ve added a few choice quotes I found while I was reading. Suffice it to say, Emma Straub waxes poetic about the meaning of life while in between bouts of existential bullshit.

So much of the city she’d fallen in love with was gone, but then again, that’s how it worked. It was your job to remember. At least the bridges were still there. Some things were too heavy to take down.

I think some of the issues I take with this book stem from the fact that I live in Brooklyn and I’m so immersed in life here. It wasn’t awe-inspiring to read about the people I live next to. Or even to read about some similar thoughts I’ve been coming to terms with myself.

Perhaps if you’re not from New York and you’re wondering why that kid in your chemistry class that always brooded was up to nowadays, then perhaps this is the book for you. Because honestly, this book wasn’t breaking the mold with ideologies and different life views for me.

Would I recommend? Perhaps not to a native New Yorker.

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