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Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Emma Straub has a new novel, Modern Lovers, following on the heels of The Vacationers, now out in paperback.

Both are perfect for summer reading. The Vacationers finds a couple from New York City embarking on a vacation to the island of Mallorca. This is a celebratory holiday to mark the 35th wedding anniversary of Franny and Jim Post, and the high school graduation of their daughter, Sylvia. Joining them will be their older son, Bobby and his partner, Carmen, as well as Franny’s oldest friend, Charles, and his partner, Lawrence. Along with all of these family members and friends come a multitude of jealousies, secrets, betrayals and hopes fulfilled or abandoned. Emma Straub perfectly balances their struggles in a novel that is both very funny and seriously good.

Modern Lovers has the same sense of fun in this the story of families and friends struggling with life in modern day Brooklyn. This story involves long time friends, two couples and their teenage children. The parents, Elizabeth and Andrew, and their friend Zoe went to college together. They were all members of a band, very popular during their college years, achieving that one huge hit with a song sung by a former band member, Lydia, who died young. Though her death has haunted each of the others in their own way, it is not until a director wants to make a documentary film about Lydia and the band that all of the unresolved issues from the past come to the surface, threatening their present day lives in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood.

Zoe and her partner, Jane, own a popular local restaurant but their relationship is showing some strain. Their daughter, Ruby, is trying to stay out of the way. She has just graduated from high school and is struggling to know what to do next. Elizabeth is a real estate agent quite happy with her job, but her husband, Andrew, who has family money and an income from writing jingles and elevator music, is struggling to find a fulfilling occupation. Their son, Harry, is a lovely boy and after an uneventful childhood, he will discover that he is more capable than he realizes as this novel progresses.

Modern Lovers begins with Zoe and Elizabeth, best friends since college meeting at Zoe’s home, with Elizabeth eyeing up the place in case Zoe and Jane separate and the house is put up for sale. What comes next is sometimes funny and sometimes sad but always clever and often surprising as once again Emma Straub delivers a lively and absorbing tale of modern lives – and lovers.


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