In June, the book club was at Zoe's house, which meant that Elizabeth had to carry her heavy ceramic bowl of spinach salad with walnuts and bits of crumbled goat cheese a grand total of half a block. She didn't even have to cross a street. None of the dozen women in the group had to travel far; that was the point. It was hard enough to coordinate schedules and read a novel (though only half the group ever finished anything) without asking people to get on the subway. Make plans with your real friends on your own time, drive your car across the borough to have dinner if you want to, but this was the neighborhood. This was easy.—Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (Riverhead, 2016, opening sentences--uncorrected ARC)
- Setting: modern times, Brooklyn; 1980s, Ohio
- Circumstances: When in college at Oberlin, Elizabeth, Andrew, Lydia, and Zoe were in a band. Lydia went on to have a solo career after recording a hit single of one of Elizabeth's songs. Now, years after Lydia died of a drug overdose, a Hollywood producer wants the rights to the song and the late-singer's life story. Meanwhile Elizabeth, Andrew, and their son and Zoe, Jane, and their daughter are all at turning points: midlife crises, rocky marriages, and children on the brink of adulthood. Will anyone survive the inevitable stresses as past and present collide?
- Characters: Elizabeth, a real estate agent; Andrew, a trust fund child; Harry, their son; Zoe and Jane, restaurant owners; Ruby, their daughter; Lydia, dead at 27 and the only one who became famous; various others from the past and present
- Genre & themes: contemporary literary fiction; explores marriage, parenthood, life choices, teenagers, and dealing with the past.
- Reviews & recommendations: Modern Lovers is winning starred reviews from everywhere, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and the Library Journal. The book is said to be a realistic and relatable story about families and two generations on the edge of change. The restaurant angle adds an extra layer of appeal to foodies. Straub generally captures human nature perfectly, and her newest novel promises to meet all my high expectations.