Modern Lovers

Emma Straub. Riverhead, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-59463-467-3
Back in the 1980s at Oberlin College, in Ohio, Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe, and Lydia had a band called Kitty’s Mustache. Elizabeth wrote a song called “Mistress of Myself”; Lydia sang it and made it famous, but she died of a heroin overdose at age 27. Two decades later, Elizabeth and Andrew are married and have a son, Harry. Living nearby in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood are Zoe and her wife, Jane, with their daughter, Ruby. They own a neighborhood restaurant called Hyacinth. Midlife crises are roiling both marriages: Zoe and Jane are considering divorce; Andrew, the scion of wealthy parents, has never held a meaningful job and is now bemoaning his failure to find fulfillment, and Elizabeth sells real estate in Ditmas and feels responsible for everyone. To further complicate matters, teenagers Harry and Ruby suddenly discover sex. Into this volatile mix comes a Hollywood producer who’s making a movie about Lydia and urgently needs the former band members to sign over their rights to the iconic song. Straub (The Vacationers) spins her lighthearted but psychologically perceptive narrative with a sure touch as she captures the vibes of midlife, middle-class angst and the raging hormones of youth. Straub excels in establishing a sense of place: the narrative could serve as a map to gentrified Brooklyn; it’s that detailed and visually clear. Events move at a brisk pace, and surprises involving resurgent passion enliven the denouement. Readers will devour this witty and warmly satisfying novel. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 05/31/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 512 pages - 978-0-7352-0816-2
Compact Disc - 978-0-451-48495-6
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-5094-1135-1
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